Checking the Oppositions Facts

A review of statements from ChelanHospitalFacts.com

ChelanHospitalFacts.com is the website created the citizens opposing “Bond Levy” to be used to partially fund a new hospital for the Lake Chelan Hospital District.  The “Citizens for a New Hospital” understand that not everyone is going to be in agreement.  It is important that the issues be understood and the “Facts” be presented accurately and without bias.  The citizens opposing the new hospital are not representing the Facts accurately and are misleading the public.

Opposition Fact:

$50 million in debt for a new hospital is too risky… The debt will have a payback period of 35 years … Who pays if they default?

New Hospital Response:

35 years is a long time to be in debt, but does that stop people from buying houses? 30-year mortgages are a fairly common reality for building and real estate purchases and large capital projects like building a new facility for the Lake Chelan Valley. The community is asked to vote for a $20 million bond that sunsets at 30 years. Individually, it’s about 5-6% of our property tax, or the same amount we pay to support the library.  And by the opposition’s own research, they state that the taxpayers are not responsible if the hospital were to default on the loan. By definition, our hospital can’t be a Town Toyota Center.

Opposition Fact:

This plan won’t fix our hospital’s problems … Congress and the President have proposed drastic reductions in Federal subsidies … Our hospital will experience revenue decline and more uncompensated care.

New Hospital Response:

Healthcare policy is and will always be complicated because factions of our government fundamentally disagree on how to slow cost increases and regulate the percentage of GDP spent on healthcare in this country.  But no discussions are taking place about Critical Access Hospital (CAH) funding and the cost-based reimbursement for the Medicare population. This deserves repeating because the opposition fails to recognize this fact:  No discussions are taking place about Critical Hospital Funding.   Any challenge to this funding would result in an unravelling of the rural health network nationwide.

Our hospital’s financial stability is rock solid because of its CAH reimbursement.  Furthermore, the hospital will enjoy expanded reimbursements upon completion of the new building that pays almost the entirety of the debt service.  Over 80% of the Critical Access Hospitals nationwide have already taken advantage of this structure.  We’ve been vacillating for ten years as a community.  Now is the time to act.

Finally, under the ACA (Obamacare) our hospital only experienced a 4% change in its Medicaid population.  So even if/when it is repealed/replaced, the impact will be minimal.

Opponents to the new hospital use one brush to paint all rural communities and all rural hospitals.  Understand that we are a Critical Access Hospital and this will deliver financial stability in the years ahead.

Opposition Fact:

The plan to build a new hospital is not aligned with important healthcare trends … Rural healthcare trends point to primary care, outpatient services, wellness programs, and of medical services for economies of scale … Focusing on expanding hospital services in a small rural market is not the future of healthcare.

New Hospital Response:

Exactly! On this point we agree!  Our hospital is an organization whose overall services are 70% outpatient:  mammograms, colonoscopies, physical therapy, lab service, radiology, and not to mention the Lake Chelan Clinic – where we practice family medicine (aka primary care). We’ve started diabetes classes, and work on improving wellness activities year round.  What we need is the space to practice and host these services!

Opposition Fact:

We can meet our community’s health care needs affordably and for the future … we now have a hospital and a clinic that serves the local community … we can make improvements with a well-vetted plan that is lean and flexible.

New Hospital Response:

The opposition’s well-vetted plan would involve cutting hospital services and laying off a full third of the hospital’s staff.  Called the ‘stabilize and ship’ model, it would outsource much of our health care to Wenatchee.  Services lost would be all in-patient and out-patient surgeries as well as labor and delivery.  No longer would babies be born in the Lake Chelan Valley.

The wisest investment is to maintain the current hospital’s services which have shown remarkable growth over the last ten years.  Revenues in 2006 were $12 million.  In 2016, they had jumped to $27 million.  Out-patient revenues are increasing yearly in line with national trends and jumped $1 million in revenue in 2016 alone.  To abandon this success story would be truly tragic.

The opposition has a strong attraction to our current 40+ year old hospital.  This attraction coupled with an imprecise interpretation of trends has led to their defense of the current facility.  But we have much to be proud of in our need for a new facility.  Lake Chelan Community Hospital is a bright star in the Central Washington health care network thanks to wise management.  Let’s build a new facility so that this light can shine even brighter.