Dartmouth Hitchcock to provide budget information

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(Host) One of the largest hospitals in the region is outside the scope of Vermont regulators. But top officials from the Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center were in Montpelier earlier this week to brief officials on their hospital’s budget.

VPR’s John Dillon reports.

(Dillon) The Dartmouth Hitchcock hospital gets about 40% of its patients and revenues from Vermont. It pays about $91 million a year in salaries and benefits to Vermont employees. But since the institution is in New Hampshire, it operates outside Vermont’s system of hospital oversight.

Dartmouth officials paid a courtesy call this week to Vermont’s Public Oversight Commission, a panel that make recommendations on hospital budgets. Richard Showalter, the hospital’s vice president of finance, said the hospital faces a number of financial pressures. Labor costs are rising, he says, and Medicare and Medicaid payments don’t cover the full cost of care.

Businesses that provide health insurance for their workers will make up the difference. It’s called the cost shift, and the same issue affects hospitals all over the country.

(Showalter) “We are, because of this cost shift, right now proposing to raise our hospital charges and physician fees by 8-10%. That won’t be across the board. We selectively look across the board and look at a number of different factors there. But that is a result of the underpayments in Medicare and the state Medicaid programs.”

(Dillon) Showalter says the hospital is still finalizing its 2003 budget, but it’s looking at a budget increase of 12-14%.

The 500 bed Dartmouth Hitchcock hospital is roughly the size of Fletcher Allen in Burlington. Like Fletcher Allen, it’s associated with a medical school. And it’s also launched a large construction project.

Glenn Gershanek of the Public Oversight Commission asked the New Hampshire hospital officials to provide more financial information. He says Vermonters need the data so they can compare the financial performance of two large hospitals.

(Gershanek) “Well, in regard to Dartmouth Hitchcock, what I would like to do is have information that I can then use to help me understand whether Fletcher Allen is comparable, since they are basically the same size and fulfill the same function as a medical center hub for different parts of Vermont. They’re the only comparison to Fletcher Allen that we have.”

(Dillon) After the Dartmouth Hitchcock presentation, a hospital official told Gershanek that the financial information he wants would be made available.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.

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