Singing River cuts projected patient collections

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PASCAGOULA, Miss. (AP) - New financial projections predict Singing River Health System will collect $88 million less from patients that previously expected.

The adjustment comes after the county-owned hospital system changed auditing firms. The Mississippi Press reports (http://bit.ly/MKha1Q) that hospital system is now using a different method to estimate future collections.

Chief Executive Officer Kevin Holland said the adjustments reduced by $61 million the amount expected for services performed in the five years ending in 2012 and reduced by $27 million projected revenues from 2013 patient services.

“We have a substantial amount of patient balances in our system … on past services rendered,” Holland said.

Finance Director Lee Bond noted the system will still attempt to collect the money owed.

Singing River runs hospitals in Pascagoula and Ocean Springs, as well as facilities elsewhere. It has an annual budget of $370 million.

Jackson County taxpayers have pledged a property tax as a backstop if the system can’t pay its debts.

The estimated loss of revenues was found as new auditors Horne LLP reviewed account records and worked with Singing River’s finance department, leaders said, but the health system has developed a more precise method of estimated collection amounts.

To make up for the anticipated losses, Holland said the system will “continue doing more of the same that we’ve been doing over the last three years.”

Over the last several years, the system has reduced operating expenses by eliminating more than 200 jobs, mostly through attrition and consolidation of management, he said.

The adjustment represents “a local and national problem,” Holland said, and “every hospital … has this issue to manage.”

The problem is exacerbated as there are more uninsured and underinsured individuals, he said, and is further complicated by a lagging economy and the fact that Mississippi has not expanded Medicaid.

In Jackson County, “we’ve got a very large uninsured population,” Holland said.

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Information from: The Mississippi Press, http://www.gulflive.com

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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