Health Care

Smaller Vermont hospitals forgo requests for service rate hikes

Rutland Regional Medical Center entrance
Rutland Regional Medical Center. File photo by Mike Dougherty/VTDigger

Despite ballooning inflation and health care personnel costs, executives from Vermont’s smaller hospitals say they plan to keep service charges level. 

Midyear changes in hospital prices affect private insurers and their enrollees the most. If the Green Mountain Care Board allows hospitals to raise the price of services, private insurers begin paying more almost right away. Consumers see the impact in rising premiums the following year. 

When reached for comment this week, representatives from more than half of the state’s 14 nonprofit hospitals said they won’t ask state regulators for a midyear raise. Three hospitals did not respond to requests for comment.

Thus far, only the state’s larger hospitals — Rutland Regional Medical Center, University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington and Central Vermont Medical Center in Berlin — have filed rate adjustment requests with the Green Mountain Care Board. A board spokesperson confirmed on Friday morning that no other hospitals had filed midyear requests, though they have until May 1 to do so.

Rutland Regional requested a 9% increase in service charges, citing a projected $7.5 million deficit this year. University of Vermont Health Network asked the Green Mountain Care Board for a 10% increase in service charges for its Burlington and Berlin hospitals because of an anticipated $44 million deficit in the current fiscal year. 

In addition to the immediate increase, UVM Health leaders also said they intend to ask for higher-than-normal increases in commercial rates in the next fiscal year. 

The board has yet to make a decision on either the Rutland Regional or the UVM Health request. 

The three hospitals making the requests serve significant chunks of Vermont’s population, and higher charges there could potentially ratchet up the price of health care coverage in the state. Two of the three hospitals finished the last fiscal year with surpluses from operations, according to filings to the Green Mountain Care Board.

The UVM Medical Center finished fiscal year 2021 with a $36.5 million operating margin and a $119 million overall surplus. Its sister hospital, Central Vermont Medical Center, ended the year with a $1.6 million deficit from operations and a $27 million surplus overall. 

During that same timeframe, Rutland Regional had a $7 million surplus from operations and a $35 million surplus overall. 

Hospitals attributed their positive margins to previous state and federal aid that they have since used up. With no additional help on the horizon, executives from Rutland Regional said, the projected deficit could cause painful cuts in essential services.

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Liora Engel-Smith

About Liora

Liora Engel-Smith covers health care for VTDigger. She previously covered rural health at NC Health News in North Carolina and the Keene Sentinel in New Hampshire. She also had been at the Muscatine Journal in rural Iowa. Engel-Smith has master's degrees in public health from Drexel University and journalism from Temple University. Before moving to journalism, she was a scientist who briefly worked in the pharmaceutical industry.

Email: [email protected]

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