Hospital seeks funding assistance to save money on CMS payback

Pearl River County Hospital and Nursing Home CEO James Williams addressed the Board of Supervisors during their Monday meeting in hopes of finding a way to alleviate the hospital’s current financing arrangement with Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

Williams stated that the hospital is paying 10.75% interest on money due CMS for the repayment of funds from a previous hospital administration misuse of funding. Williams said that after the hospital board reported the wrongdoing to CMS, CMS basically did not go after the wrongdoers, but instead put the burden on the hospital in the amount of $5.9 million. Williams said that while it has been a challenge to pay down the amount owed to CMS, the hospital has the debt owed down to approximately $3,253,839.17.

Williams (pictured in WRJW file photo) said that each month, CMS takes about $120,000 cash from monies that would normally be going into the hospital’s checking account. Williams said that CMS is using a formula to calculate the monthly payment that he cannot figure out.

District 3 Supervisor and Board Vice President Hudson Holliday and District 5 Supervisor and Board President Sandy Kane Smith said they have repeatedly tried to negotiate with CMS on a buyout or a better arrangement for the hospital in repayment of the money, to no avail. They said they have had help from state representatives and CMS will not budge. Holliday referred to CMS as “like dealing with the mafia.”

Williams is asking the Supervisors to help the hospital to secure funding to pay off CMS and finance the amount of money owed at a significantly lower interest rate, thus creating a better cash flow for the hospital on a monthly basis.

When asked by the supervisors on the future of the hospital, Williams responded “the future is good.” Williams said that revenue is currently running ahead of the 2016 numbers by approximately 6 percent.

Williams also responded to questions from the supervisors at their request to dispel rumors created by a group of local rumormongers that Board President and District 5 Supervisor Sandy Kane Smith referred to as “motor mouths on facebook” who repeatedly make false statements about the hospital without any facts to back up their claims.

Williams validated that the HVAC systems are working fine, the county does not give the hospital money each month (rumored to be as much as $500,000), and that the plumbing system does not have any issues.

District 3 Supervisor Hudson Holliday pointed out that the hospital is a major part of the economy while also bringing vital services to the north end of the county.

“If we had someone walked in here from Chicago in a seersucker suit that said they would bring an industry to Poplarville that would employ 500 people, have a 10 to 12 million dollar in salaries per year, provide a service to our community, we would be floundering at their feet wanting to give them every tax advantage in the world, parading them in front of the Rotary club and the Chamber of Commerce, patting them on the back, buying them steak dinners to come here. We’ve got a hospital here that does all that and we (supervisors) don’t give you anything to operate. We pay a note for about $360,000 per year for the 60 bed addition at the nursing home and that’s it,” Holliday said. “We’ve got a great hospital.”

District 2 Supervisor Malcolm Perry pointed out that the money for that note on the 60 bed addition comes from millage already in place and not from the county’s general fund.

County Administrator Adrain Lumpkin said that if the hospital could pay off the debt and establish funding, the repayment of the loan would benefit the hospital in that the interest paid would become an eligible expense for the hospital and in essence be like getting money back. The current repayment of the money owed to CMS does not provide any financial or reimbursement opportunity to the hospital.

Williams also stated that he and the hospital are planning to bring back services such as IOP (Intensive Outpatient Therapy), but in a gradual manner as not to create a strain on revenue.

The board approved an order to pursue quotes for financing options for the hospital debt to CMS and reconvene once numbers are ready for review.

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