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RMC gets $1.15M from state
Administrators say it will not go far to cover costs of indigent care

CONYERS - Rockdale Medical Center received $1.15 million from the state's indigent care trust fund for this year, and while the money is welcome, hospital administrators said it will not go far to help them cover the costs of providing indigent care.

Administered by the Georgia Department of Community Health, the indigent care trust fund provides to public hospitals to offset the cost of providing indigent care. The amount of money given to each hospital is determined by Medicaid utilization and the amount of charity medical care provided by each hospital.

Participation is optional and money is allocated similar to a matching grant. Each hospital is asked to forward a transfer to the DCH with the state allotment transferred to the hospital 10 days later.

RMC transferred $672,707 last week and received $1.823 million, or a net of $1.15 million, said Sandy Albrecht, RMC chief financial officer.

Last year, RMC received $1.3 million for indigent health care.

However, the money does little to help RMC cover its charity cases. Last year, RMC provided $7.6 million in charity, or indigent, care medical services. Add that to $18 million in bad debt generated by people who were deemed able, but unwilling, to pay for services, and the hospital operated with $26.6 million in debt last year.

Albrecht said all hospitals face the same problem and try to deal with it the best way they can.

By law, everyone who walks into the hospital receives a medical screening by a qualified medical practitioner before any talk of payment of services can begin, Albrecht said.

The hospital partners with victim abuse and indigent advocacy groups whenever possible. RMC also has financial advisers on staff to help people either qualify for Medicaid or workout some kind of payment plan before services are rendered.

Also, the hospital offers a minor care service that is open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Mondays.

For those who are determined are able to pay for hospital services and are not in an emergency situation, Albrecht said they are asked to put down a down payment during the admission process.

If admission is refused, the hospital will give out a list of local health care providers that the person can go to for treatment. Several doctor offices are on the list along with for-profit health clinics and the local public health department office.

"This is to steer patients away from the emergency department who really are not in any serious danger but are tying up medical personnel and bed space to treat those who are truly sick," Albrecht said.

Jay Jones can be reached at jay.jones@rockdalecitizen.com.