One of Michigan’s most vulnerable communities is at risk of further danger if Michigan’s new no-fault insurance legislation goes into effect.
Hurley Medical Center serves Flint and Genesee County, the unhealthiest county in the state of Michigan. The public teaching hospital is large enough to house 443 beds and is a regional leader in advanced specialized health care. Hurley Medical Center serves more than 20,000 people annually in their inpatient hospital and their Emergency Department handles over 80,000 annual emergency cases. Hurley Medical Center is unique, as it provides millions of dollars in uncompensated care to the uninsured and underinsured, and does not receive tax revenues from the city of Flint or Genesee County.
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“We are a safety net hospital,” said Hurley Medical Center’s Chief Financial Officer Cass Wisniewksi. “43 percent of our patients use Medicaid.”
Hurley Medical Center’s uniqueness makes them vulnerable to the upcoming changes in Michigan’s no-fault insurance program, changes that have the potential to reduce the quality of services that Hurley Medical Center can provide.
According to Wisniewski, who has worked in Michigan healthcare for 19 years, Hurley Medical Center stands to lose $18-$25 million annually depending on how many people choose to reduce their rates. By reducing their rates, they will no longer be granted unlimited lifetime medical benefits in the event of a car accident and must pay for care at providers like Hurley Medical Center from their own funds.
“It will be very detrimental,” Wisniewski said. “What programs we will need to eliminate are being looked at, including potential changes to our employee benefits. We are a Level 1 Trauma Center, and that could change.”
‘Level 1’ is the highest distinction that a trauma center can receive and the Farouck N. Obeid Trauma Bay provides emergency services to Genesee County, as well as servicing a large portion of the accidents on Michigan’s I-75. The high amount of auto accidents treated at Hurley Medical Center means that a change to Michigan’s no-fault insurance laws will have a disproportionate effect on their revenue.
With Hurley Medical Center expecting an imminent drop in revenue, the trauma center stands to lose the most. Wisniewski fears that the high costs associated with the Farouck N. Obeid Trauma Bay, mostly in boarding surgeons overnight to provide constant care, will make it particularly vulnerable to a revenue hit.
“This will have a devastating impact (on the trauma center),” Wisniewski said. “Tough decisions have to be made, and we will make them.”
In addition to the trauma center, Wisniewski claims that programs like Hurley Medical Center’s nationally-accredited breast cancer program, Diabetes Center, and Bariatric Center could face cuts that have the potential to reduce the quality of care available to patients.
“This is one of the most dramatic and negative things Hurley has ever experienced,” said Wisniewski. “We are trying to survive all of the changes.”
Looming over Hurley Medical Center is the date July 1, 2020, when Michigan’s new no-fault plan officially goes into effect and employees like Wisniewski will start making decisions that could impact all 400,000 people in Michigan’s unhealthiest county.