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Can I be real with you for a moment?

I am reminded of my pastor, Gabe, and how often times when he's preaching a message that's sure to step on toes, he asks, "Can I be real with you for a moment?" The silence from the room rarely deters him from delivering his heart and we're all left better off having heard what God has for us.

I ask you today, "Can I be real with you for a moment?" In the midst of your silence, I am going to follow Brother Gabe's lead and assume being real with you is just what you want.

Back last year right after I became CEO of the hospital, I went before Judge Maxwell and dismissed countless small claims cases from her docket. I was not happy with the process being used but made it clear to the court and community we would work hard to find ways to allow residents to pay their medical bills, on their terms, and do all we could to avoid using the courts to collect. Some took advantage and set up payment plans and others saw it as though they would never have to pay. This is simply not the case.

Healthcare is expensive. We never turn anyone away from our hospital based upon their inability to pay and we provide a multitude of programs to help. Low income family's qualify for numerous programs through the hospital, government programs and our partnerships.

We rolled out a patient lending program this year that allows a patient to set the amount they can pay each month. Whether it's $20, $50 or say $100 - you decide. There is an 11% finance charge and all credit scores qualify - but the advantage is we are going to apply a 20% cash pay discount to your bill and it pays for the interest charge and still saves you money. The bank in charge of the lending pays us up front the full amount owed and the financing is between you and the bank.

There are charity care programs, Medicaid, Medicare and of course cash pay discounts.

Fiscal responsibility is not just the hospitals duty. Of the 14,000+ visits a year we see to the Emergency Room, many of these visits are best handled in a clinic - not an ER. Our hospital ER is used as a clinic because a clinic visit requires payment up front whereas an ER cannot refuse treatment due to non-payment. These non-emergent visits drain resources and cause significant wait times for others. There are a number of negatives that come from this - on top of having no intention to pay for the visit.

Soon, you will see a more diligent collection process from the hospital. It's already underway. We will make every effort to work with anyone who truly wants to resolve their bills but in situations where you absolutely have zero effort to work with us, we will move the account to a collection process starting September 1 that will result in liens, garnishments and other collection activity when all other attempts are exhausted.

If I dismissed a case last year that was against you and you've made no attempts to handle it, it will like be refiled. The operational cost for the hospital is expensive and we are heating and cooling a 115,000 square foot building we do not fully use. We have cut cost and spending everywhere we can. This is a small community hospital and we have to have the community doing its part.

We had overwhelming support when we asked you to support a new hospital. Sixty-five percent said YES! We all know we need a hospital but it means us all doing our part. If you owe a bill to MMH, come meet with me. I'll work with you in any way I can if you'll put forth an effort. I have a team of people to assist you and I'll even sit down with you personally.

Take advantage of these offers. Legal fees, court costs, etc will only add to what you owe. We can help if you'll let us.

I hope I've not been too real.

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