Representative Rick Berg, R-N.D., toured the Jamestown Regional Medical Center Monday to learn how a rural, critical access hospital works.
Rick Berg, R–N.D., visits with Samantha Revering, marketing specialist, and Cindy Gohner, vice president of clinical services, at Jamestown Regional Medical Center Monday, February 20, 2012. Berg toured the hospital to learn more about critical access hospitals.
“My key purpose is the Obama budget reduces payments to critical access hospitals,” he said. “I’m fighting the view that every hospital has a city of 1 million nearby. I’m building the case for rural health care and looking for firsthand examples.”
Hospitals meeting critical access criteria receive reimbursements of 101 percent of costs rather than the 100 percent of cost normally paid by the Medicare program currently.
The cuts for rural health care could be as much as 2 percent, according to Alan O’Neil, JRMC chief financial officer.
“It is a 1 percent reduction in hospital payments,” he said. “For us it means about $250,000 to $300,000 annually.”
O’Neil said other changes could affect payments to physicians by as much as 27 percent.
Berg also asked about the steps the hospital is taking toward electronic records. He said he had a particular interest in that area because his wife is a physician.
“We’ve integrated a lot of our equipment so the data goes directly to the electronic record,” said Cindy Gohner, vice president of clinical operations. “It can be as much as a half hour of record keeping for every hour of patient care in some cases.”
Berg has other concerns regarding health care.
“About 80 percent of my focus is on critical access,” he said. “But the president’s health care bill thrust is consolidation, which is not good for rural health care.”
Berg also expressed concern about the upcoming farm bill debate.
“Crop insurance is key,” he said. “They held a hearing in the Senate last week. The Senate will act first and then the House will debate. The farm bill expires at the end of September. We’re committed to getting done but there is a good chance it will be extended.”
Berg, who is seeking the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Democrat Kent Conrad, was in Jamestown for the District 12 Republican meeting. He is touring North Dakota this week.
Jamestown Sun reporter Keith Norman can be reached at
(701) 952-8452 or by email at