ST. ALBANS — After cutting its fees an average of 8.5 percent two years ago, Northwestern Medical Center (NMC) is asking the Green Mountain Care Board to approve a 6 percent increase for next year.

Last year, NMC had no fee increase.

The cut, followed by a zero increase “have clearly put increased pressure on the organization,” said Chief Financial Officer Chris Hickey.

When asked about the financial impact on patients, Jonathan Billings, NMC’s vice president for planning and community relations, noted that when NMC cut rates, insurance companies didn’t adjust their premium increases.

Similarly, he expects an increase in rates to not directly impact premiums.

Even if GMCB approves the rate increase, NMC’s rates will remain below where they were in 2015. For most charges NMC has been at or below the median, said Billings, and the hospital’s board is very conscious of keeping costs “within the community means.”

The hospital is facing financial challenges stemming from an increase in bad debt, loss of Medicaid and Medicare funds, and lower patient volumes for surgery and diagnostic imaging. In addition, the debate over whether or not to repeal or alter the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is creating an unprecedented amount of insecurity for health care providers, explained Hickey.

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