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home : opinions : commentary April 29, 2016


3/9/2013 1:03:00 PM
Guest Editorial: Verde Valley Medical Center: 75 years of excellence
Barbara Dember


In just over a year, Verde Valley Medical Center will celebrate a significant milestone - 75 years of caring for area residents. As the interim president and CEO of VVMC, I am honored to help guide the organization as it approaches its diamond anniversary.

Our mission is to provide exceptional care while transforming the health of the community. Through the hard work and commitment of everyone at VVMC, we are accomplishing this mission in many ways.



Providing Excellent Customer Service

Our guiding principle is Patients Are Our Purpose. Over the past several years, there has been a concerted effort to exhibit that principle in everything we do. This focus has resulted in an ever-increasing number of patients rating their care as excellent.  



Delivering High Quality Care

We are dedicated to delivering care that meets high quality standards and keeps patients safe. In January, VVMC was recognized when it was invited to present at a national meeting in Washington D.C. hosted by the American Hospital Association. The meeting highlighted the success of hospitals' in the areas of quality and patient safety. Additionally, VVMC has received national recognition that attests to both our quality and our customer service from distinguished organizations such as U.S. News and World Report and Becker's Hospital Review.



Expanding Access to Care

To ensure residents do not have to leave the area for their care, VVMC has expanded services including a Level IV Trauma Center designation, neonatal nurse practitioners to care for newborns, new cancer treatment and imaging technology, and an affiliation with the University of Arizona Cancer Center. We also developed a multi-specialty group of physicians in response to physicians telling us they would need to leave the community if they remained independent. The group includes primary care, orthopedic surgery, general surgery, cardiology, neurology, urology and infectious disease. And, we have full service Emergency departments in Cottonwood and Sedona so residents have quick access to life-saving care 24 hours a day, seven days a week.



Benefiting the Community

Being active in our community and impacting health is a priority for the VVMC Board of Directors and management team. We have a variety of outreach programs that allow us to achieve these goals. One of the most prominent is Fit Kids, which addresses the health effects of childhood obesity.

In our last fiscal year, VVMC provided $3.4 million in community benefit through programs such as Fit Kids, health screenings, support groups and community education. That commitment continues this fiscal year through these and many other programs.



Contributing to the Economy

As the largest employer in the Verde Valley, VVMC is a key contributor to the local economy.

An article in the March 4 issue of Time magazine raised questions about hospitals and the healthcare system. I'd like to share some thoughts with you from VVMC's perspective about some of the points in the article that I believe were misleading.

• Being a non-profit hospital does not mean we don't strive for a positive operating margin. Instead, it means we invest our net income into the hospital to benefit the community.  During our last fiscal year, VVMC had a 3.4 percent operating margin, which was lower than the national average of 5.5 percent for non-profit hospitals.

VVMC uses this margin to finance improvements in facilities and equipment needed to keep pace with advances in care and meet the growing demands of our aging population, and to ensure the availability of physicians in our area.  

For the current year, VVMC is anticipating only a 1.8 percent margin due to further declines in reimbursement and continuing inflation on labor and supplies.

• Medicare and Medicaid (AHCCCS) accounts for 75 percent of our patients at VVMC. While the Time article suggested that Medicare covers the cost of care, the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission has said it really doesn't. For instance, last year at VVMC we were paid $7.5 million less than it cost to provide care to Medicare and Medicaid patients. For hospitals like ours where a high percentage of patients are Medicare and Medicaid, the discrepancy between what it costs to provide care and what we are paid for that care leaves a significant financial gap. The result is that hospitals shift costs to patients with commercial insurance - a practice that is often called "a hidden healthcare tax."

• Each year, VVMC provides millions of dollars in uncompensated or charity care. During our last fiscal year, the uncompensated care provided by VVMC was $6.8 million. In just one year, VVMC saw uncompensated care grow from 2.4 percent to 6.4 percent of our overall volume. The primary driver for this change was the decrease in AHCCCS eligibility from the State Legislature, which left many people with no insurance.



So what is VVMC doing for our community?

We are committed to reducing healthcare costs by becoming more efficient and by helping keep our community healthy.  First, we have a robust process improvement program that relies on our frontline staff and the use of Six Sigma and LEAN principles to eliminate waste from our organization. The goal of these efforts is to manage our costs, while offering the level of services that allows our friends and neighbors to receive excellent healthcare in their own community. Second, we are developing community wellness and prevention programs so patients can get the right care at the right place and time, at the lowest possible cost.

In closing, VVMC is proud to be a cornerstone of the community. We take our role and our responsibility to the residents of the Verde Valley very seriously, and look forward to serving you for the next 75 years.



Barbara Dember, M.H.A., F.A.C.H.E., is the Interim President and CEO at Verde Valley Medical Center.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Monday, March 18, 2013
Article comment by: Bitter Pill

There's an interesting followup to the Time magazine article in the Washington Post:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/how-medicares-low-prices-inflate-health-costs/2013/03/10/1d2b11d2-89a7-11e2-98d9-3012c1cd8d1e_story.html

"For many commentators, the much lower prices paid by Medicare suggests an obvious solution to our health-care problems � �Medicare for all.� There�s only one problem with this �obvious� solution: Medicare has been a primary driver of the explosion of health-care costs in the United States despite � and perhaps because of � the low prices it pays."

Actually, the explosion of health care prices began with employer-paid insurance, but that's another story.


Posted: Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Article comment by: ShiShi JoJo

. By now you have read Bitter Pill article in Time. There are several issues that are being missed here. The first is the Charge List from the hospital. These are the heavily inflated prices for everything. The insurance companies pay some part of these charges. The under or uninsured are stuck with paying very inflated list prices for everything based on those charge lists. And they are not necessarily discounted or discounted to more reasonable levels by individuals who can’t shop around when brought in by ambulance. They don’t have the slightest idea what things should cost or what the hospital will accept.

Another issue is that the hospitals are jacking the prices AND the insurance companies are paying the increases. That is why healthcare costs are soaring. Since Obama has required that the insurance companies spend 80 to 85% of each healthcare premium dollar for “actual healthcare” that leaves another 20% that go to administration. If one raises the overall amount then the 20% is a bigger number and the executive management team has a greater profit and higher salaries. That is why they are passing the increases on to subscribers – they get bigger bonuses. I’d really like to look at the CEO’s salary and compare it to the doctors’ salaries. Can we find out what the CEO’s salary, bonus, and perks come out to? No mention of that.

Also if the non-profit hospital has more profit, they seem to feel that it should go to increased buildings, equipment and more marketing. And buying more physicians for their stable. I’m not sure who should be billed for more physical plant, but it probably should not come from the wallets of people who require healthcare.

As far as the “uncompensated” care they claim to not be paid for, I’m absolutely sure they use the inflated price lists and list prices to calculate the free or poorly paid charges. This makes the uncompensated part much, much higher. I’d like to see exactly how much uncompensated care they are delivering based on actual, real, and accurate charges. Way, way lower then they state. Now consider that 20-30 million people will be given healthcare who didn’t have it before AND all of us have to pay premiums and taxes to “buy” them healthcare, we have a perfect storm that will only make the hospitals and drug companies richer, ruin whatever care we now deliver, drop physician and healthcare worker salaries even further, and make unsustainable increases in the future. Until everything collapses. And it will.


Posted: Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Article comment by: Obscene Profits

Thank you to Dyan Allen for pointing out the absurdities in Obamacare, and to Kayo Parsons-Korn for the interesting tidbit on the relative costs for her procedure.

Look at it this way Kayo: at least you paid your fair share to fund the hospital board of directors annual retreat to Hawaii.

These important Hawaii meetings for the privileged few at the top sure help keep healthcare affordable in the Verde Valley!


Posted: Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Article comment by: Dyan Allen

Kayo Parsons-Korn is 100% correct in her opening statement and Barbara Dember says as much in her statement "hospital shift costs to patients with commercial insurance." This practice of cost shifting has now been cemented in the new Healthcare law which is designed to shift the cost of care across all paying parties. Next year, the final phase kicks in and Kayo will no longer be "allowed" to buy health insurance without paying for maternity coverage. As a woman without a uterus, she is probably not interested in paying for maternity coverage, but she'll have no choice. Everyone, including men, will be paying for dozens of government-mandated "essential" coverages they don't need or want, and maternity is just one of the pricier ones. There is no "opting out" and the IRS will fine you if you don't buy it starting 9 months from now. Elections have consequences.

Posted: Monday, March 11, 2013
Article comment by: Kayo Parsons-Korn

I can only think that the people who think they get excellent care at a reasonable price at this facility must be on Medicare. There are a lot of seniors here in the valley. I guess those of us who are not seniors have to make up for the Medicare recipients.

I had a total hysterectomy about three years ago. Total price $26,000. No complications, two night stay. The Healthcare Blue Book puts this operation and hospital stay $9,344. And that's for a four day admission.

Now if you look at their figures:

http://www.healthcarebluebook.com/page_Results.aspx?id=102&dataset=MD

the cost for the surgeons and anesthesia services were quite in line for the bluebook. Around $4,000 for the two surgeons and anesthesiologist. What was way more was the hospital stay. And we're comparing two days to the Bluebook's four!

And then I had about six months of hassling to get my insurance company to pay. No doubt they thought the price was outrageous too.

I've learned my lesson, if you aren't on Medicare and aren't having an emergency, shop around. You might be better off going out of network to Phoenix.


Posted: Monday, March 11, 2013
Article comment by: Gaia Gurl

Why is a BROCHURE selling the medical center in the EDITORIAL section?

Shouldn't they have BOUGHT an AD for this?


Posted: Sunday, March 10, 2013
Article comment by: Brian Carlson

Good Job VVMC. I have been a patient at VVMC and experienced the most caring staff of any Medical Center that I have been to. The doctors, nurses and administration were all helpful and professional.

Posted: Sunday, March 10, 2013
Article comment by: Ahhh, Yes!

The medical industrial complex at it's finest!

Posted: Sunday, March 10, 2013
Article comment by: P F

@ Ms. Dember

You should forward VVMC's billing for the $6,800,000 write-off to that great humanitarian Jan Brewer who, after staring blankly into space for a full minute, answered a question about where Arizona's Healthcare-uninsured could get medical care, flatly stating they go to the Emergency Room, as you well know, Barbara, the best place for free medical care.




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