Legislation takes aim at new Casper hospital

2013-10-26T06:00:00Z 2013-11-26T20:57:55Z Legislation takes aim at new Casper hospitalBy JOSHUA WOLFSON Star-Tribune staff writer Casper Star-Tribune Online

Legislation drafted by an influential Wyoming lawmaker would force a new Casper hospital to treat old and poor patients who rely on government health programs for coverage.

The bill would require all hospitals in Wyoming to accept Medicare and Medicaid in order to maintain a license to operate. That could create a conflict for Summit Medical Center, the 16-bed facility planned for the city’s east side.

A group of local doctors would own most of Summit, with health care developer Nueterra taking a smaller stake. Federal regulations prohibit new physician-owned hospitals from accepting Medicare and Medicaid.

The legislation would cover new and existing hospitals. So even if Summit gets running soon, it would still need to find a way to take patients who rely on government programs.

“They want to stay licensed, they have to come into compliance,” said the bill’s author, state Sen. Charles Scott.

Summit critics argue that the hospital would otherwise enjoy an unfair advantage by treating patients who can pay while sending older and poorer people elsewhere. That prompted Scott, a Republican who represents Natrona County, to author the bill.

Scott said his primary concern is protecting older and poorer people from being denied access to certain medical facilities.

“Suppose you have a flu outbreak that disproportionately affects the Medicare population,” he said. “That’s a fairly realistic scenario. The people who have it bad enough that they need to be hospitalized, then need all the resources available to them in the community, and if you don’t have all the resources, you could kill people.”

Nueterra Chairman Dan Tasset did not respond to a message seeking comment. At a Casper City Council meeting in August, a lawyer representing the company said Summit would treat all patients allowed under federal law. But he also acknowledged that federal regulations prohibit the care of Medicare and Medicaid patients.

Company officials remain tight-lipped about their plans, but there are indications that Nueterra might be exploring other locations in Wyoming besides Casper. A company official is listed on three Wyoming-based corporations created within the past year, Wyoming Secretary of State records show.

If new physician-owned ventures do come to Wyoming, they will be the only hospitals in the state subject to Scott’s legislation. All of the state’s existing hospitals accept Medicare and Medicaid, according to the Wyoming Department of Health.

Scott has also authored a second bill that would charge a fee to hospitals if Medicaid and Medicare patients don’t account for at least 10 percent of their revenue. The state would distribute the fees to hospitals that serve patients on government programs.

“That then puts you on an equal playing field,” Scott said.

The Legislature’s Labor, Health and Social Services Committee will consider both bills at a meeting early next month. Scott wants the committee to sponsor both pieces of legislation, which would increase their likelihood of success at next year’s full legislative session.

Scott doesn’t know what kind of reception he’ll get from colleagues. That’s one of the reasons he drafted two separate bills, he said.

“All I know is I see a problem coming, and one that particularly hits the Medicare population,” he said.

Wyoming Medical Center has been vocal in its opposition of the new hospital. Officials there say a third Casper hospital, as now envisioned, could syphon away enough paying customers to force cuts in emergency services.

Scott said WMC officials and Natrona County commissioners approached him about legislation that would have required state regulators to consider the need for a new hospital. Wyoming had a similar law in the past, but Scott was among the lawmakers who repealed it because they considered it ineffective.

“I wasn’t put up to this,” Scott said. “These are my own ideas. They did come to me, but I didn’t like their solution.”

The Wyoming Hospital Association, which represents all but one of the state’s hospitals, hasn’t taken a formal position on the bills. But the group supports Scott’s efforts to address the issue, said association President Dan Perdue.

If physician-owned hospitals come to Wyoming, they will have a leg up over existing facilities that treat older and poorer patients, he said. Nor will they have to operate an emergency room that treats all comers.

“In essence, they would be skimming the cream off the top,” he said.

Contact Joshua Wolfson at 307-266-0582 or at Follow him on Twitter @joshwolfson.

Copyright 2015 Casper Star-Tribune Online. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(11) Comments

  1. bns_35
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    bns_35 - October 27, 2013 7:01 pm
    Good OL Boy Doc Scott... seems he's been chatting it up with the other good ol boys at WMC... ah, and the air in that room was apparently green from the "bought and paid for" greased palm whispering that we the people have all to well get from our politicians these days! They just can't stand it can they? Doc Scott is seeming too comfortable in his "public servant position". I say times up.... no more of your I shenanigans in Cheyenne!
    Report Abuse
    HONEST ABE - October 27, 2013 7:35 am
    WMC uses Creating Accounting to claim loss of revenue and to show publicly they are losing monies. A state auditor needs to come in and analyze their FUZZY math. At a recent employee forum, CEO Vickie Diamond stated that they were $3 million dollars in the red and that more cost cutting would need to be achieved. Then later went on to say that the federal government was giving them over $1 million back towards their implementing an electronic patient records system software program called Cerner. Then she went on to say that WMC has plans to expand into the western area of Casper. Now if you are really losing money, then how can you afford a new wing, pay back all those bonds, and finance a way to expand westward. The employee forums are just a crock of BS, administration rhetoric, and lies about the current finances of WMC. A real INVESTIGATION into WMC finances is warranted by the NC Board of Commissioners, but most members won't support that because they are bondholders. Actually doing business with the hospital they are supposed to be governing. would appear to be a conflict of Interest to me.
  3. thehousemouse
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    thehousemouse - October 27, 2013 6:07 am
    sugar coat it anyway you want, but it still remains the fact that private entities should not have to be extorted to keep a fiscal irrresponsble entity in business. wmc does not have to pay rent that is how they managed to be a community hospital. and i realy dont care what they say their statis is but its a for profit outfit i have no doubt they make plenty of money fortheir shareholders. the land if free as along as they are a county hospital. the tax payers moneys is what pays for their shortfalls as well. and using scott as a front man for nothing less then squeezing other facilities is almost criminal. its like saying a hardware store cant come to casper because we already have 1. wmc knew when they signed up what their requirements were, now lets cry foul when someone did not bow down to their bull? no i say rock on guys.
  4. rlschulz
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    rlschulz - October 26, 2013 8:37 pm
    If you are a Physician owned hospital you can NOT take any federal money. Which means they can not bill Medicare or Medicaid patients. No money coming into a business for services and supplies would not be a great business model for a for-profit institution. So they do not accept Medicare or Medicaid patients. What Mr Scott is proposing is that all hospitals have to take all patients. How is that a problem? The opposite of your lack of competition, more like making sure everybody has to do their part.
  5. Moore
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    Moore - October 26, 2013 4:58 pm
    Scott, you have no business making forceful legislation, blocking free market. We have hospitals that do accept poor and elderly so I would like to ask you what the ulterior motive really is.

  6. strool35
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    strool35 - October 26, 2013 8:58 am
    Scott has been in state government to long and needs to go. He has never seen or heard of a feel good law or a tax he does not like. It is people like Scott that are a RINO's and need to be turned out of office the next election. Scott makes a republican ashamed to be associated with that party.
  7. thehousemouse
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    thehousemouse - October 26, 2013 8:45 am
    here is the kicker part of this. the reality is for profit hospitals do not turn away patients that cant pay they can and will do charity work as well. the second bill would tax hospitals across the state and put that money in wmc pockets for a percentage of what they do or dont do in charity cases. go to wyoming liberty group websight and wqatch listen and learn what the story is. natrona county is in bed with wmc and those who are against the new hospital have their wallets tied in with wmc too. your right perhaps if wmc stoped speading like a cancer and took care of their business better they would not have to worry about compitision, poorly run facilitys are being killed off one by one because if i can go to a new facility and only 27 hundred for a surgury and not have to give wmc 8k for the same thing, im gone.
  8. thehousemouse
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    thehousemouse - October 26, 2013 8:01 am
    hes a old confused man no doubt in my mind. think perhaps it time to retire these fake rinos who are progressives and self serving dont you think?
  9. LearnTeach
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    LearnTeach - October 26, 2013 8:00 am
    Another thought, maybe Scott and the WMC are more afraid of having some more competition. I would prefer we didn't have a profit, reactionary based health care sysytem, but sense we do it seems to sound like these two parties are more interested in keeping true capitalist competition out of our local marketplace. If these Physician based hospitals think there is enough demand in the market to support another hospital, then isn't it their right to build their facility? Perhaps the WMC should focus on increasing the quality of their care and services rather than protecting their profits by using legislation to close the marketplace from competition. On another note, if Scott is so concerned about ensuring the access of all community members to the health care facilities and services they need or may need in the future, maybe its time to truly rethink the way we run our system general. In any case, I see some blatant hypocrisy here by both Scott and the WMC.
  10. thehousemouse
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    thehousemouse - October 26, 2013 7:47 am
    I knew when i listened to the radio out of cheynne and heard none other then our county commissioner bill mcdowell whine like a school girl to the DJ I knew then that this monoply was going to have to be fought on more then the local level. charlie scott, james anderson, kraft, ray peterson all are involved in this scam to force people to only use WMC. they are doing this though committee bill instead of needing a 64 majority vote they can try to pass this though house with 50 plus one, making it easy to side step proper channels. they are essentially creating legislation to kill compitition and this is never good for residents. election time is coming here soon perhaps its time to clean our backyards and get rid of speciul interest politicians and their cronnies. why should we tax payers continue to pay for wmc lack of being a run run facility.
  11. LearnTeach
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    LearnTeach - October 26, 2013 7:47 am
    Interesting that Scott was a proponent of not accepting the medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, leaving thousands of old and young Wyoming residents who would qualify under the expansion without the means to visit any hospital. And now he is a supposed advocate for the very same.
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