Medicare Delay Affecting Local Hospitals

10-11-06 - When the Federal Government delayed Medicare payments for nine days to wrap up the fiscal year, rural hospitals took a hit. Now, a southern Oklahoma Hospital is struggling to pay the bills.

The Johnston County Memorial Hospital cares for mostly elderly and uninsured patients. That means Medicare covers almost 90 percent of the budget. When the government delayed Medicare checks last month, it was the 47 employees who paid the price.

The Schuster Group, which owns the hospital, knew about the delay for weeks, but officials underestimated the significance. When they realized they were over budget, they were forced to push back payroll a week.

Everyone was paid on Friday, but now the schedule must be permanently changed, so employees won't see another check for two weeks.

Hospitals in Madill, Marietta and Healdton were more prepared for the Medicare delay because they have corporate backing.

The Johnston County Hospital has endured adversity before. They were in jeopardy of shutting down three years ago until the Schuster Group purchased the hospital from the county.