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UAMS, Baptist Health start alliance

By Jack Weatherly

This article was published March 18, 2014 at 2:44 a.m.

The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences has entered its third partnership with other institutions in recent months to expand services and address its anticipated budget deficit and possible layoffs.

UAMS announced in a news release Monday that four of its vascular and endovascular surgeons have begun seeing patients at Baptist Health Medical Center in Little Rock.

Chancellor Dan Rahn said in an interview that the medical school began collaboration with Jefferson Regional in November in otolaryngology (eye, ear and nose) and with Saline Memorial in neurosurgery in January.

“The economics of the health care sector are changing very rapidly,” Rahn said in the release. “Many health care providers are looking for creative ways to adapt to these changes while maintaining high standards of patient care. The area of vascular surgery provides both UAMS and Baptist Health an excellent opportunity for collaboration in attaining those goals.”

Rahn emphasized that the four surgeons are continuing to operate at UAMS. The arrangement is an expansion of services overall, while taking nothing away from UAMS, he said. Baptist currently has one vascular surgeon, Dr. Robert Casali.

The UAMS physicians who will provide services at Baptist are Mohammed Moursi, chief of vascular surgery; and vascular surgeons Ahsan Ali, Matthew Smeds and Guillermo Escobar.

UAMS is “on track” to reduce by half a deficit that it projected in January to be $29 million for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2015. He said he would report that figure to the University of Arkansas board of trustees Joint Hospital Committee on Thursday in Fort Smith.

Rahn told the committee in January that if 75 percent of the estimated 500,000 Arkansans without health insurance were to gain coverage through the state insurance exchange, that would generate $28 million a year for UAMS.

That would include participation in the so-called private option, whereby Medicaid insurance could be converted into private policies for an estimated 250,000 Arkansans and tax breaks for about that many who don’t qualify for Medicaid and don’t have coverage.

Forty percent participation in the exchange would be a reasonable expectation for the first full year, Rahn said Monday.

After repeated votes in the House, the private option, which would cover roughly half that number, was approved March 4 for fiscal 2o15 and signed by Gov. Mike Beebe. The Senate had approved it Feb. 20.

UAMS gave a long look at another way to address its fiscal woes when it and St. Vincent Health System studied the possibility of merging some of their services to save money. The effort was dropped last year when it was decided the arrangement would not work for numerous reasons.

A study by Deloitte consultants estimated that the collaborative arrangement would have saved $38 million to $63 million annually for the institutions.

Business, Pages 23 on 03/18/2014

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