(CNS): The local hospital will be focusing on resolving its more than $90 million old and bad debt problems over the coming year by trying to collect around $10 million of its oldest debt, writing off what can’t ever be recovered, focusing on reducing the recent debt and stopping it from mounting in future. Speaking at the Public Accounts Committee Wednesday, Health Services Authority CEO Lizzette Yearwood and HSA Board Chair Jonathan Tibbetts spoke about the plans for dealing with the hospital’s mounting debt problems.
Over the years, when the public hospital has treated patients who are either uninsured or under-insured it has struggled to collect payment for both medical services and drugs. And with so much debt, which has not been properly reviewed for write-off, the hospital is carrying it over year to year in its financial reports, preventing it from balancing its books.
But as some of the debt is more than ten years old and will never be recovered, Tibbetts told PAC that the HSA is now in a position to begin writing debt off, having been given the green light to do so by the government.
Yearwood told the committee that the hospital accountants have estimated that they can probably recover around $10 million of the whopping $90 million owed to the hospital. She said the HSA would be conducting a procurement process to find a local company that could help with that collection. While it is still unlikely that the public facility would seek to sue the local man in the street for outstanding fees, it will go after insurance companies that have not paid, among other overseas debtors.
Now that the board has the power to write off the oldest debt, Tibbetts said, the balance sheets can also be cleaned up and the hospital can then focus on the collection of debt that is less than a year old and put in policies and procedures to prevent further future debt and improve payment collection.
The problem the hospital faces, however, is that despite the mandatory requirement for everyone in Cayman to have health insurance, in practice it is simply not the case. There are many people in Cayman who are working on casual contracts or for rogue employers who did not pay their health insurance.
There are small micro traders who simply cannot afford to cover their own health insurance policies and a significant number of people on the basic SHIC plan, which is still woefully inadequate for any serious medical problem.
As a public service, the HSA is obligated to treat everyone in need of medical attention, including visitors and local indigent patients. In addition, when the insurance companies refuse to pay and patients don’t have the means to pay, the hospital is left indebted.