PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) - Maine Medical Center is cutting costs and instituting a partial hiring freeze because of a budget deficit. Hospital officials say that for the first six months of the current fiscal year, Maine Med's budget came up short by $13.4 million.
The biggest reason, they say, is fewer patients. According to Al Swallow, MMC's Vice President for Finance, the hospital typically budgets with a certain number of patients in mind, based on year-to-year experience. Those numbers had been rising, so the hospital budgeted for a slight increase.
However, those numbers are actually down this year.
Swallow and Jeff Austin of the Maine Hospital Association say some of it is because of better treatment to reduce re-admissions, but also blame the economy and increasing health insurance costs for keeping patients away.
Hospital officials say they've also seen an increase in charity care and bad debt, along with some decline in reimbursements by Medicare and Medicaid.
The budget plan includes a partial hiring freeze, partial travel freeze and a series of other steps to economize and find new efficiencies. The goal is to save $15 million by the end of the year to pout the budget back in balance.
Jeff Austin of the Hospital Association says Maine Med is not unique. He says most other Maine hospitals, and many across the country, are facing the same problems with declining patient numbers, and some others in Maine have also quietly taken steps to deal with the financial impact.