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  • By Mar-Vic Cagurangan

GMH failed to collect $19.8M delinquent patient bills

Constantly facing a funding shortfall, the Guam Memorial Hospital has $19.8 million overdue patient bills that remained uncollected, according to the Office of Public Accountability.

The outstanding patient debts account for 90 percent of the total of $22.1 million billed between January 2017 and June 2018.

“(GMH) management allowed non-collection or untimely collection of past due accounts by not instituting rigorous billing and collection systems,” OPA said.

Delinquent accounts, for example, were not referred to the contracted collection agency. Under the law, unpaid bills must be turned over to the collection agency after 120 days.

Collection and billing have been a long unresolved issue at the public hospital, which is always on the verge of a fiscal crisis.

OPA’s audit found that “actual patient charges were not on the hospital’s schedules” and some charges were not based on updates rates.

Auditors also found that payment arrangement was not properly managed.

“The hospital did not prioritize making credit arrangements before a patient’s discharge. It averages a patient six months after discharge to return and arrange for a payment plan,” the report said.

“About 99 percent of the time, the collection staff perform non-collection tasks, such as entertaining various calls and concerns from patients or visitors.”

The OPA made five recommendations to GMH including enforcing the execution of a credit arrangement upon the patient’s discharge and creating a policy on the implementation and review of rate changes, to name a few.

“I am dismayed by the decision of the new administrator for not forging a new direction for the hospital. Instead, GMH’s official response portrayed old-management-thinking to rationalize the unfortunate situation of the Hospital by not accepting that the GAR and policies are there for a reason,” Public Auditor Benjamin J.F. Cruz said.

The OPA report was released following the Office of the Attorney General’s announcement last week that it has partnered with GMH to assist in collection efforts.

“Filing a collection case is done as a last resort, but the Office of the Attorney General also has an obligation to make sure that the government receives payment for services that it has provided,” Attorney General Leevin Taitano Camacho said.

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