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Pay Health Care Claims Quickly

A letter sent to Gov. Jim Justice, regarding the financial collapse of Ohio Valley Medical Center in Wheeling raised hackles among some state officials. They were right to be unhappy about part of it (see editorial below).

But the missive contains complaints that should be looked into by state officials — because some affect other health care providers in West Virginia, including those in Wheeling.

As we reported, the letter, dated Sept. 2, was from Alecto Healthcare Services Executive Vice President Michael J. Sarrao, and it involved the closure of OVMC. California-based Alecto purchased OVMC and East Ohio Regional Hospital in Martins Ferry in 2017. Alecto announced previously that both would close in early October. But OVMC was shut down a full month prior to that.

In his letter to Justice, Sarrao laid out a long list of complaints.

One is out of the hands of state officials. It is the federal government’s ongoing case involving allegations against Wheeling Hospital and a former management firm, R&V Associates. That behavior caused “substantial harm” to OVMC, Sarrao stated in his letter.

How that case plays out will have ramifications for the future of health care in Wheeling.

Sarrao added that other financial problems at OVMC involved state government, however. He cited delays in payment for Medicaid patients. As of Sept. 2, OVMC had more than $1.5 million in outstanding Medicaid claims, Sarrao explained.

An even more serious obstacle involves the state’s supplemental health insurance program. As of Sept. 2, OVMC was still waiting for more than $2.1 million in payments through that program for the quarters that ended March 31 and June 30, Sarrao stated. In Ohio, hospitals receive similar payments much quicker, he added.

Nothing can be done about some of the factors that pushed Alecto to close OVMC. But complaints such as Sarrao’s about slow-paying state programs affect other health care providers, too. Justice and West Virginia legislators should be asking what can be done to make state government more efficient in its dealings with the health care community.

Inadequate reimbursement by government for some services is a constant concern of many in health care, who often have to charge private insurers and cash-paying patients more to make up for the shortfall. At the very least, hospitals, doctors, etc., ought to get their money from Charleston in a timely manner.

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