Shifting costs of health care impact VVH worker benefits
One of the leading health-care providers in the region, Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs, has suspended its own employee health and wellness incentive in an effort to control costs.
The hospital told its 1,177 employees earlier this spring about the wellness plan and other adjustments to employee benefits, which hospital officials said is related to a changing national health-care landscape.
The hospital also altered its accrual schedule for paid time off, and is evaluating potential changes to retirement plans, said Stacey Gavrell, chief community relations officer for Valley View.
In addition, the hospital also increased the number of hours part-time employees must work before they are eligible for benefits, from 16 hours a week to 24, she said.
“We have not eliminated benefits for part-time employees,” Gavrell said. “At the same time, we are continuing to analyze all of our benefits … as we are working to keep costs in line as our payers and reimbursements shift.”
Full-time employees will still be able to use any remaining balance in their wellness accounts from previous years, but the hospital will not pay into the program, at least for this year, she said.
The annual benefit can be used for such things as athletic club memberships, recreational equipment and other incentives to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
The reason for the adjustments, Gavrell said, is that the same changes that are affecting individuals, families and businesses as they weigh insurance options, are also impacting the business of providing health care.
Specifically, there has been a drastic shift in the mix of payers from patients who are on private commercial insurance to caring for more Medicare and Medicaid patients, she said.
In 2011, commercially insured patients accounted for more than 50 percent of Valley View’s payers, compared with about 44 percent in 2015. During that same period, Medicare payers have grown from 28 percent to 32 percent, and Medicaid from 11 percent to about 18 percent, according to statistics provided by the hospital.
Commercial insurance also previously subsidized 35 cents per dollar due to shortfalls from federal and state payments on Medicare and Medicaid patients.
Today, with more patients on Medicaid as a result of increased eligibility under the Affordable Care Act and an aging Baby Boomer generation that’s moving onto the Medicare rolls, those commercial subsidies have grown to 42 cents per dollar, Gavrell said.
“Charity care,” which is what hospitals refer to as bad debt, has also remained fairly steady.
The hospital absorbed $11 million in patient debt last year. That was up from $9.8 million in 2014, but still less than the $16.4 million in 2013 before the ACA and its increased Medicaid benefits was fully implemented.
The employee benefit changes were rolled out in March, Gavrell said. Most of the changes will not take effect until this summer, she said.
Valley View still maintains a full-time equivalent of 882 employees, which is up some from last year’s 852 FTEs, according to the hospital’s annual report that was presented in early March.
Though the adjustments will touch all eligible employees at some level, the eligibility change for part-time workers will impact about 80 workers, Gavrell said.
“Not all will lose benefits, though, as many have other benefit options or others may work more hours to maintain eligibility,” she said.
Gavrell also said the industry trend is toward a greater number of hours worked before a part-time employee is eligible for benefits. Many organizations are eliminating part-time benefits altogether, she said.
“We affirm the critical importance of recruiting and retaining the best staff and physicians at Valley View,” Gavrell said. “Our effort is to keep part-time benefits to maintain the flexibility needed to staff a hospital that doesn’t sleep.
“Our priority is and will always remain the care and safety of our patients,” she added.
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