BRATTLEBORO - Brattleboro Memorial Hospital's 2014 budget is going to show the largest percentage increase in the state after the Green Mountain Care Board approved all hospital budgets earlier this week.
The Green Mountain Care Board approved BMH's almost $69.8 million budget just as the hospital's fiscal year is about to begin on Oct. 1.
The projected patient revenue in 2014 at BMH is going up 5.92 percent, more than twice the state average of 2.7 percent.
The Green Mountain Care Board wanted the state's hospitals to control spending and keep their budgets below a 4 percent increase.
Only three hospitals; Brattleboro, Fletcher Allen Health Care and Northwestern Medical Center, failed to keep their budgets below the target.
Brattleboro Memorial Hospital was initially asking the board to approve a $69.9 million budget, which was a 6.2 percent increase over 2013.
BMH shaved some projected revenue off the budget after meeting with the Green Mountain Care Board earlier this year, a move which hospital Chief Financial Officer Michael Rogers said would force the hospital to somehow cut about $164,000 from its projected spending in 2014. Rogers would not say if the cut would lead to staff layoffs.
"It is not a lot of money in our budget, but we are going to have to find it somehow," Rogers said. "We are going to have to look at every possibility to cut it out and reduce our expenses."
This is the second year the Green Mountain Care Board reviewed community hospital budgets.
Overall Vermont hospital budgets increased at the lowest rate in at least 15 years, with total revenue from patient care at the state's 14 hospitals projected to rise by an average of 2.7 percent in 2014.
The net patient state average revenue increases have not been below 5 percent over the past 15 years.
"This is an important milestone: It brings hospital budget growth more in line with the rest of our economy, it should help hold down health insurance premiums, and it demonstrates the kind of cooperation we need to make our health system affordable," Green Mountain Care Board Chairman Al Gobeille said. "We're grateful to the people who run our hospitals for rolling up their sleeves and doing the hard work to exceed our expectations."
The Green Mountain Care Board began working with hospitals in March, setting a rate increase goal of 3 percent, with an additional 1 percent allowed for costs associated with credible health reform proposals.
The board also allowed hospitals to increase their budgets if the hospitals were hiring new physicians who had already been working in the community, Green Mountain Care Board Director of Health System Finances Michael Davis said.
BMH this year brought a local orthopedic office into the hospital system which will add to the 2014 revenue, but Davis said that revenue was approved even though it helped the BMH budget climb above the projected target.
"We recognize that bringing in a new practice is a budget neutral transaction," Davis said. "They still slowed their growth, which is what we were trying to achieve. If we can bring growth down closer to the rate of inflation it will help all of us."
When the extra revenue from the new medical practices is backed out of the BMH budget the hospital's approved rate increase is more in line with the rest of the state. On average rates at BMH will go up by 5.8 percent in 2014, just slightly above the state average of 5.14 percent.
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at 802-254-2311 ext. 279 or hwtisman @reformer.com.