UVM Health Network requests 10% midyear rate hike

Published: Apr. 6, 2022 at 5:49 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 6, 2022 at 7:16 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Your hospital bills could go up again soon. The UVM Health Network is requesting a 10% rate hike for commercially insured patients, in addition to the 6% approved in September.

The increase would apply to certain services at the UVM Medical Center and Central Vermont Medical Center.

When referring to the budgets, a Central Vermont Medical Center leader says it’s a sea of red that should concern every Vermont citizen.

The bottom line-- even if regulators approve the mid-year rate hike, both hospitals will end the fiscal year with a loss.

This rate hike request comes just one week after the Green Mountain Care Board denied a similar request from the Rutland Regional Medical Center for a 9% mid-year increase.

The UVM network, like Rutland Regional, cites inflation, demand for services and workforce challenges.

Jeff Tieman, the president and CEO of the Vermont Association of Hospitals and Health Systems, says these are cost pressures facilities did not foresee when they thought the pandemic was winding down.

“None of the hospitals that asked for a rate increase wanted to be in that situation. They were doing it because they want to make sure that they can continue to be available, that they can continue to invest in their facilities and improve them and keep them safe,” Tieman said.

Tieman says the greatest strain on the budget is paying personnel.

Green Mountain Care Board Chair Kevin Mullin commented during Wednesday’s hearing that UVM is where the lion’s share of our providers are trained and it is Vermont’s academic medical center, but he ultimately doesn’t believe in a mid-year adjustment unless it’s an emergency.

However, he said he believes the network has justified the rare move. Mullin points out that just last month the UVM Medical Center negotiated necessary pay raises and retention bonuses for nurses to keep and recruit permanent personnel.

The Green Mountain Care Board will vote on the rate increase request this Friday. If it doesn’t get the rubber stamp, the network says wait times could increase and some services could be cut.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the UVM Health Network said: “UVM Medical Center and Central Vermont Medical Center’s request for a mid-year budget adjustment is a rare and extraordinary step to preserve our ability to serve the health care needs of our region in the face of exceptional and unforeseen inflation. While the increase in our expenses would justify a commercial rate increase well over 20 percent, the two hospitals filed a request with the GMCB for a 10 percent increase, in hopes that payments from Medicaid and Medicare would improve, and that cost-cutting efforts at UVMMC and CVMC would help reduce projected losses for the year. Vermont’s critical access hospitals, whose Medicare payments keep up with inflation, have options UVMMC and CVMC do not to cover the expenses of providing health care. The GMCB staff recommendation of a 3.5 percent commercial rate increase at this time falls well short of what we need to maintain critical health services.”

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