CRESTVIEW ó North Okaloosa Medical Center administrators are scoffing at a national nurses union report claiming the local hospital charges the nation's fourth-highest billing mark-up.


CRESTVIEW ó North Okaloosa Medical Center administrators are scoffing at a national nurses union report claiming the local hospital charges the nation's fourth-highest billing mark-up.



Crestview's hospital is surpassed only by hospitals in Secaucus, N.J., Painsville, Ky., and Orange Park, California-based National Nurses United stated in a press release.



NOMC charges patients 1,137 percent of its treatment expenses against a state average of 555 percent and national average of 331 percent, according to the release.



The claim, NOMC Chief Executive Officer David Fuller said, is faulty in its calculations and excludes multiple factors involved in medical charges.



"Their methodology was really rudimentary," Fuller said.



For example, Fuller said, for-profit North Okaloosa writes off between $1 million and $1.5 million per month in charity patient treatment charges, which were not included in the union's study.



"Our hospital provided more than $13.5 million in uncompensated care last year," NOMC Director of Marketing Rachel Neighbors stated in a news release.



Hospitals' claim that actual patient charges donít matter because few patients pay the list price is "a defense that defies logic,Ē union President Jean Ross stated in the NNU release, claiming high hospital charges result in higher insurance payments.



"Uninsured individuals with far less bargaining power are too often hit with the full list price," Ross said.



That's not the case at NOMC, Fuller said. Charges are established with insurers such as Medicare, Medicaid and individual insurance companies, he said.



"Every insurance plan we participate with pays a negotiated rate," Fuller said. "Even for our self-pay patients, we offer huge discounts," as much as 50 percent off the bill, Fuller said.



"Presuming the (NNU's) analysis is correct, itís important to know charges are not the same as what consumers actually pay," Neighbors stated.



"You have to look at who's originating the study, what's their underlying  motivation, and what's their method," Fuller said.



The union's release of its study of publicly available Medicare cost reports was timed with its protest of NOMC parent company Community Health Services Inc.'s planned acquisition of Health Management Association.



Community Health's shareholders approved the acquisition last week at a meeting in Naples. Fuller said adding more hospitals to CHS's family will benefit, not hurt, patients, as the union claimed.



"It gives us a much stronger leverage in the provision of patient care," Fuller said, citing increased opportunities to turn to sister hospitals that offer expertise in areas NOMC does not.



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