Missed deadline costs HRMC potential revenue

Haywood Regional Medical Center could miss out on as much as $750,000 in revenue over the course of a year after missing a federal billing deadline for its new mental health wing.

The missed deadline, which occurred last fall, was the result of a misunderstanding between the hospital and the federal Medicaid office.

The psychiatric unit is eligible for a higher rate of Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement than other hospital units. To qualify for the higher rate, the new wing had to be visited by state inspectors and get certified.

State surveyors told the hospital to apply for the survey by mid-August of 2008 in order to meet a cut-off date of Oct. 1. If the hospital missed the deadline, it would have to wait a full year for certification that qualifies it for the higher rate.

This is where state surveyors got picky. The surveyors received the hospital’s application for a survey on Aug. 19, “a date which apparently the state does not consider to be mid-August, although two of the four days in question were over a weekend,” explained hospital CFO Gene Winters, who didn’t work at the hospital at the time.

The state told the hospital that its request was four calendar days late — forcing HRMC to wait another year before it can qualify for a bigger return on the psychiatric unit.

The 16-bed unit has been mostly full since it opened in October of last year, thus serving as a steady source of revenue for the hospital, between $250,000 and $300,000 a month if the unit remains near capacity.

The amount of revenue the hospital is missing out on could be as high as $750,000 over a 12-month period until the window rolls around to get the unit certified, Winters said. According to Winters, the true budget impact from the missed deadline will likely be small, around $300,000. The hospital had budgeted for the psychiatric unit conservatively.

“We are in the process of sharing the pain of the reduced revenue with our psychiatric unit management company, so the impact to the hospital will be minimized,” Winters said.

— By Julia Merchant

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