Hospital CEO keeps close eye on 'prompt payment' bill


Photojournalist - Justin Jones
Reporter - Jason Hibbs

MURRAY, Ky. - The clock is ticking. Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear has just three days to sign or veto a bill that local hospital administrators say they desperately need.

The "Prompt Payment" bill landed on the governor's desk last week but he's yet to take any action on it.

In a news conference earlier this week, Governor Beshear said his staff was concerned the bill may be too costly to implement. However, a local hospital C.E.O. who recently laid off dozens of employees says the state can't afford not to pass the bill.

A spokesperson told Local 6 she isn't sure what the governor is going to do.

She only said that this bill is still on the his desk, and that he is taking a very close look at it before he takes any action on it.

Hospital administrators fear that if the governor vetoes the bill, it will force them to make even more cuts.

Murray Calloway County Hospital C.E.O. Jerry Penner said there's nothing easy about running a hospital
and recently, his job has become even harder.

"All we're asking for is to get the money flowing to us to get paid," Penner said.

He said, right now, Medicaid owes the hospital $3.9 million.

"I have bills right now that are still outstanding from November of 2011," Penner said.

House Bill 5 penalizes Medicaid if they don't pay up.  The longer they wait, the more Medicaid has to pay because of interest.
But Penner fears the governor will veto the bill because of the cost of implementation.

"It would be truly a shame for hospitals and physicians for not only our region, but across the entire state," Penner said.  "If the governor vetoes this bill, then the hospital might have to start screening Medicaid patients even more than they already do, and they might have to turn some medicaid patients away."

"We want to take care of all our patients, not a select few," Penner said.

For now Penner will keep a close eye on House Bill 5 and hopes it becomes law.

Local 6 also reached out to the Chairman of the Board at Crittenden Health Systems, another hospital that recently laid off people and said Medicaid reimbursement is to blame.  The chairman says the governor needs to act, because small, local hospitals need help.

Penner said people can call the governor's office and ask him to pass House Bill 5 and not to veto it.  In fact, he says lots of people in and around Murray have already done that.

If the governor vetoes the bill, the veto will stand because the legislative session has come to an end, lawmakers cannot come back and override the veto.