The hospitals on Guam are constantly in the news for struggling with a variety of Guam-specific hurdles — some of which are due to the “remote” nature of the island, some are the demographics and others are simply unknown. Fingers pointed by public and private parties alike include billing snafus and inefficiencies, poor management, insufficient government funding, dishonest and delinquent patients… the broached possibilities are endless.
But maybe the reason no one has been able to pinpoint an issue, and therefore a solution, is because they are trying to do just that — pinpoint one offender.
Journal staff took to the case over the past few weeks (see Page 4) and amid other findings, we learned that the network of billing systems and codes for any given hospital procedure is practically unnavigable; payments for the “3Ms”, as the industry calls them, (see Page 16) are tangled and caught between local and federal government funding; and above all, uninsured, non-residents — including and in addition, those who provide incorrect social security numbers and addresses — are receiving treatment and then disappearing without a trace, leaving the hospital to eat those costs.
While improvements are being made on billing systems and verification programs and discussions are in the works on ways to improve the rates and payments from the governments, what stands out as a different and untouched beast is this — how do we make those uninsured, non-residents fit better into the islands very specific, interwoven fiscal system? Is there a way to firstly, make treatment at the hospital more attractive to that demographic, so that they aren’t waiting until the last minute to seek care (and therefore the care needed is less extensive and expensive) and secondly, to develop payment programs that help these types of patients — in the long run, the well-being of our hospitals — obtain access to the kind of fiscal aid needed to take responsibility for and not fear the payment of these bills?
Instead of pointing fingers to pin the hospitals’ issues on one culprit, let’s take action on one that isn’t frozen amid government red tape. Recognizing the integrated network of these issues, in order for our hospitals to have the time and funds to finally seek advancement that will adhere to better care for all classes of patients on Guam, we need to bring all classes of patients to a level playing field of payment — helping to untangle the first of many strands in Guam’s hospital care’s web. mbj