PHILIPSBURG – Granite County Medical Center administrators, staff and supporters have their fingers crossed and eyes firmly-focused on next Tuesday’s election results, with a critical hospital funding levy up for approval.
Three years ago the small hospital in Philipsburg had hit a big financial brick wall. Faced with a widening gap in insurance reimbursements, rising operational costs and lingering recessionary effects, hospital leaders asked voters and won approval of a special mill levy. It not only helped with costs, but allowed the Medical Center to implement improvements, such as an up-to-date records system.
“Over the past three years we’ve implemented Granite County’s first electronic health records, and that was an absolute milestone for us," said Granite County Medical Center CEO Maria Stoppler. "Patients can have access to their patient portal. They can view their information, see their test results. They can communicate with their provider. It really is an absolute asset to providing quality care.”
Now it’s time for renewal of the three-year levy, at $400,000 per year, starting next July when the current levy expires. It pencils out at $42.85 cents-per-$100,000 of taxable property.
That would cover 10 percent of the hospital’s operating costs. Stoppler is clear it’s not tied to the new CT scanner, which is the Medical Center’s next major upgrade.
“And this CT scan machine is outside of the mill levy and it’s 100-percent funded, the machine itself, by the the Harry and Leona Helmsley Charitable Trust," Stoppler said. "And then we’ve secured other funding and local funding, for the modular building. So I wanted the community to understand that that is not coming from the mill levy money. The mill levy is specifically for operational funds.”
Beyond helping the hospital meet its operational expenses Stoppler says the levy is also an important tool for neighbors to help neighbors here in Granite County.
The Affordable Healthcare Act and other changes have given more residents in rural areas like Philipsburg and Drummond coverage. But many can’t cover the deductibles, and the small hospital doesn’t have the volume to cover the difference. But the levy makes that possible.
“But now patients have a much higher deductible that they’re not always able to meet. So when they access healthcare services and things go toward their deductible sometimes they can only pay parts of that, or any," Stoppler said. "And the mill levy funds help make up that gap, make up that shortfall. It fills in that space because we just don’t have the volume to absorb those losses.”