Governor’s Plan Impacts Fairfield Memorial

Fairfield – Gov. Nikki Haley announced last week that the state’s Medicaid agency will begin fully compensating South Carolina’s 18 rural hospitals for their cost of treating patients without health insurance, starting in October. A 19th hospital in Bamberg could also be added to the list, should the facility reopen.

“Any time you get money, it’s going to help,” said Mike Williams, CEO of Fairfield Memorial Hospital, which is on the state’s list. “But the state hasn’t said how much, annually, each hospital is going to get.”

Williams said the state plans to distribute $20 million among the 18 or 19 hospitals, but that number could be twice as much if Haley would only accept the federal government’s Medicaid expansion funds under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

“I’m supporting that she (Haley) go with the Medicaid expansion,” Williams said, “which would mean Fairfield Memorial would receive about $2 million a year.”

The expansion funds, Williams said, have already been allocated by the federal government, and if South Carolina opts out, those funds will go to other states. Williams said that funds in Gov. Haley’s distribution plan come from larger state hospitals and are simply being shuffled around to the smaller, rural hospitals in South Carolina.

Currently, Williams explained, the federal government pays 70 percent of the state’s Medicaid costs, while the state picks up the remaining 30 percent. Under the Medicaid expansion plan, the federal government would pay 100 percent for the first three years, with that share shrinking to 90 percent by the year 2020.

Williams made it clear that Fairfield Memorial, like all rural hospitals in the state, would benefit greatly from the federal expansion of Medicaid.

“It’s to pay for the uninsured,” Williams said, “and we’re already taking care of these patients.”

Tony Keck, Director of the S.C. Health and Human Services (DHHS), said the redistribution of funds would have no impact on the state’s larger hospitals. A spokesperson for the HHS office also said that, “the exact figures for each individual hospital are not yet available as it changes each year based on hospital specific expenditures.”

“This is only one of several strategies that DHHS is implementing or developing with the legislature to improve health in South Carolina,” DHHS said Tuesday. “These strategies focus on payment reform, clinical integration and focusing on hot spots and disparities. More strategies will be announced during the budget process in the next several weeks.”