Monday evening, January 8th, the Berger Board of Governors and elected officials from the City and County gathered for a strategic update on Berger Health System. During this meeting, we reviewed the work we have done, and the work to be done, to ensure local healthcare remains strong and vibrant for generations to come.
Thanks to the work of our outstanding staff, physicians, volunteers, and our partner — OhioHealth, we had a great year at Berger in 2017. In addition to a successful operational year, as the result of significant community effort and support, Berger now has the flexibility to change our ownership structure and align with a larger system.
Although there is plenty to celebrate from last year, our greatest work is still in front of us. As we begin 2018, we are more certain doing nothing is not a viable option. Industry changes over the last year, and the last few weeks, continue to prove this.
Congress tried and failed to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, however, they did repeal the individual insurance mandate through sweeping tax legislation. This single change leaves millions of Americans covered through the insurance marketplace in limbo.
A recent development is large companies are entering the healthcare industry. Amazon, Google and Apple are all making significant investments in healthcare. If you do not think these companies will impact local healthcare, just remember the impact Wal-Mart or other large retail companies had on downtown businesses across our country, including Circleville.
Another interesting development is CVS acquiring health insurer Aetna. The objective of this merger is to influence how and where patients receive care. It is not hard to imagine, if you have Aetna insurance, where you will be required to fill prescriptions and receive care after being discharged from the hospital.
The list of industry changes goes on and on. The number, pace, and foundational changes in healthcare reinforces why it is difficult, and maybe impossible, for small, stand-alone hospitals to survive.
National data from the American Hospital Association reinforces this point. Since 2010, 9.9% of community hospitals have closed. As a result, hundreds of communities no longer have a hospital, reducing local access to care and eliminating thousands of jobs. The frightening reality is this could happen in Circleville and Pickaway County. However, our community came together and passed the November 7th ballot initiative allowing Berger to change its ownership structure and partner with a larger health system.
To be clear, Berger Health System remains strong in many ways, but we are starting to see cracks in our foundation caused by the unprecedented industry changes. As we shared on Monday night, the age of our facilities is older than our peers. Given our limited resources, recruitment and retention of clinical personnel (physicians, nurses, technologists and aides) remains challenging. What’s more, we need to significantly improve our operating margin over the next five years to maintain financial viability. The stakes are higher than ever before. A single change from Washington, the Statehouse, and/or a competitor could have drastic long-term impact on Berger’s future and your ability to access local care.
Though healthcare is complex and challenging, one thing is clear: we are on the right path to ensure local healthcare remains strong and vibrant.
As we embrace 2018, Berger’s Board of Governors, Circleville City Council and Pickaway County Commissioners are beginning the necessary work to closer align Berger with a larger health system. We will continue to share updates and answer your questions along the way.
As always, please feel free to direct any questions you may have to me. You can reach me at email@example.com.
We appreciate your continued support, and we’re excited about the work ahead and our bright and successful future.