Huntsville Hospital Offers Explanation For Cuts To Employee Benefits

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - Huntsville Hospital will institute a pay freeze, raise insurance premiums, cut retirement contributions, and change time off policies starting July 1, 2013.

Huntsville Hospital Spokesperson Burr Ingram says, "Revenue is down.  Costs are up.  Volumes are flat."

It's a simple explanation for complicated set of changes at the hospital.  These decisions are all business.

"Half the hospitals in Alabama are losing money right now," said Ingram. "One half of them."

Huntsville Hospital is doing what it can to keep its own name off that list.  Hospital officials say strains on the state from federal programs like Medicaid and Medicare make it exceedingly difficult.

"This state is a state that is the lowest-paid state in the nation for healthcare, and so when you're paid low, you must keep your expenses low," said Ingram.

When explaining the cuts for employees - including pay freezes and a jump insurance costs - Ingram invokes the name of a familiar foe: Sequestration.

"Sequestration, which we're very familiar with in this community, began to have a $4 million impact on us on January 1," Ingram said.  "Most people don't realize that, that it affected Medicare payments, but it did."

Ingram says the only way to deal with these squeezes on the hospital without cutting employees is to cut their benefits.

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