bAPT HEALTH Michael A -BaumgarterBaptist Health President Michael A. Baumgarter at Madisonville Lions Club luncheon Feb. 26. (Photo by Amber Averitt)MADSIONVILLE, Ky. (3/6/14) — New president of Baptist Health Madisonville Michael A. Baumgarter spoke at the weekly Madisonville Lions Club Luncheon Wednesday, Feb. 26.

Baumgarter served as president of St. Francis Regional Medical Center in Shakopee, Minn., before taking over his position at Baptist Health Madisonville in September 2013 after former president E. Berton Whitaker retired.

His love for healthcare dates back to when he was a child growing up in North Dakota.

“I wasn’t always sure my parents loved me,” said Baumgarter. “I grew up half a block from the railroad tracks in North Dakota and I remember coming home one day, knocking on the door to my own house and told my parents I had just got hit by a car. I remember they didn’t believe what I was telling them until the doctor standing behind me, who happened to be our family physician, told them he hit me. I was lucky; I didn’t get a bruise on me. That is what started my love for the healthcare field.”

Baumgarter has 35 years of experience as being president at various hospitals from North Dakota to Kentucky.

“I started in the 70s, when I had hair,” said Baumgarter. “A lot has changed in healthcare over the years and a lot continues to change such as the new affordable healthcare act known as Obama Care.”

"If everyone was able to pay the cost of their care, the premiums would come down 40 to 50 percent easily. But, that’s not how it works in our country." – Michael A. Baumgarter

Baumgarter said one of the first areas he focused on in his new position was Medicaid and Medicare programs. He believes it is important for everyone to be able to afford medical treatment.

“This has been coming at us for a long time,” said Baumgarter. “One of the biggest concerns has been about the cost and the number of uninsured people. We have been taking care of people before ObamaCare. Being a faith-based organization, we do not turn people away, whether they have the dollars to pay for the care or not.”

Baumgarter said that money is taken those from who can afford to pay and helps pay for those who can’t.

“This is known as cost-shifting,” said Baumgarter. “This has been going on in healthcare for a really long time. If everyone was able to pay the cost of their care, the premiums would come down 40 to 50 percent easily. But, that’s not how it works in our country. That’s what is driving everything; the cost of healthcare is out of control.”

Baumgarter said that people and companies go bankrupt because they aren’t able to pay their medical bills.

“This is what is really grinding the chain,” said Baumgarter. “There are currently between 50 and 60 million Americans, who still do not have healthcare insurance. The Affordable Care Act will probably only cover 30 to 40 million of those people who are uninsured, there will still be people who will fall through the cracks. However, we will still have self-pay, charity care and people who will have to pay over a long period of time.”

Baumgarter said during the month of January, Madisonville has seen a million dollars’ worth of business from people, who have signed up with the Kentucky Healthcare Exchange.

“For us, that means a little extra revenue,” said Baumgarter. “That million dollars’ worth of business would have been self-pay. We aren’t getting a lot, about 20 cents on the dollar, but that is 20 percent greater than zero. So, this is impacting us, we just hope it stays in a positive way. It also gives people the access to healthcare.”

Baumgarter said another thing they have noticed is businesses and individuals selecting higher deductibles.

“What we have seen in healthcare is that it has really turned into a consumerism,” said Baumgarter. “You will find people waiting until the last quarter of the year, who have met their deductibles decide to get certain procedures done that they have put off during the year.”

Baumgarter said Madisonville community members who choose Baptist Health or a Baptist Health doctor will be set up on a tier one plan the hospital offers and will not have to pay a deductible.

“If you chose to go to hospital other than Baptist Health, you will have to pay a deductible,” said Baumgarter. “What once might have been a plan for other hospitals has changed a lot, too, over the years. You could have a friend, who went in for an inpatient procedure and stayed for five days at one price and now, it wouldn’t be the same.”
Baumgarter said that Baptist Health in Madisonville can work out plans to help cut the costs of healthcare.

“To control healthcare costs, here in Madisonville, after surgery you may not make it to the medical floor,” said Baumgarter. “You may be discharged to one of the local nursing homes. We might be able to work in collaboration with them; we might be able to work out a plan that is better suited for you. Insurance companies are interested in that, in lowering the costs. We are interested in it because we can help manage the costs.”

Baumgarter said Baptist Health averages more than 100 patients a day and will be adding two new service lines to the facility in the next couple months to increase the volume of patients by 50.

“This will increase our census by 50 percent,” said Baumgarter. “I have been doing this for 35 years. I have never done a surgery, I have never ordered a test and I have never done a procedure, but it’s about the physician and the patient, we need to build on these relationships. My responsibility at the hospital is to pick out the best team I can behind that doctor to give better outcomes. This is our challenge right now.”

Amber Averitt
SurfKY News Reporter

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