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Wyoming Medical Center Construction on Schedule; Board May Review Charity Care Policy

A worker empties a bucket of trash into a bin in front of the entrance to the Wyoming Medical Center’s new 100,000-square-foot West Tower on Tuesday.
Tom Morton, Townsquare Media

Construction remains on track for the Wyoming Medical Center’s McMurry West Tower, despite some recent delays, its president and CEO said Tuesday.

A problem with the tile for the first and second floors set back the progress of the installation of kitchen equipment, but that won’t affect the the other work, Vickie Diamond told the Natrona County Memorial Hospital board of trustees at its monthly meeting.

“The building is still scheduled to turn over in August,” Diamond said.

The 98,000-square-foot, four-story tower will include private surgical rooms, a new mother-baby unit, dining area, coffee and gift shops, chapel and kitchen, according to womingmedicalcenter.org.

The five Memorial Hospital trustees, appointed by the Natrona County Commission, are responsible for overseeing the lease by the nonprofit Wyoming Medical Center Inc., of the county’s physical hospital assets. The WMC’s rent, in effect, is to provide care for those who cannot afford to pay and for patients at the jail, plus maintaining the value of the property.

By the end of March, three-fourths of the way through the 2014 fiscal year, the hospital provided $21.2 million in direct charity care for 3,276 patients, according to figures presented by the WMC’s chief financial officer Yvonne Wiginton.

In addition to the charity care, the hospital wrote off $20.0 million in bad debt, which is caused by patients who do not pay. The total of charity care and bad debt, known collectively as uncompensated care, amounts to $42.2 million. Total uncompensated care is about $2.3 million less than in March 2013, Wiginton said.

County Commission Chairmand Bill McDowell, who serves as a liaison between the commission and the Memorial Hospital board, said the WMC should consider changing its policy about uncompensated care as a result of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

According to the ACA, everyone is obligated to have health insurance, and that could affect how people apply for charity care, he said.

After the board meeting, board Chairwoman Serena Cobb  “We want to take a look at how we’re qualifying folks for charity care in light of the fact that they do need to have insurance now.”

“So if we have a patient that’s unable to pay, we’re going to look at if they qualify for charity care,” she said. “If they are entitled to have insurance and they opt out choose not to carry the insurance then they would fall under our uncompensated, or bad debt care, of the uncompensated care total.”

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