LAS VEGAS -- Sunrise Hospital is losing millions of dollars each year due to low Medicaid reimbursements. In the next few months, those loses may force the hospital to make major cuts to its NICU, impacting expecting mothers across the state.
Sunrise has the largest NICU in the state, but its CEO Todd Sklamberg said its high level of critical care can’t continue if Medicaid doesn’t increase its payments to the hospital.
Sklamberg added it sounds complicated, but the solution is simple and it starts with the state.
“He just thrived here. He’s overcome every single obstacle possible,” Henderson mother Brooklynn Bagley said.
Four months ago, it was a completely different story for Baby Bagley. Born 17 weeks early, Johnny Bagley weigh just 1.3 pounds.
Brooklynn has visited Johnny in the NICU every day since his birth on September 1.
“For me, they did everything that they possibly could to help my son and he’s here because of that,” she said. “There were times that he could have not made it.”
Brooklynn said Johnny was born with an underdeveloped heart, lungs and a severe brain bleed. He had a twin sister Rose who didn’t survive. But Brooklynn said if it wasn’t for Sunrise’s NICU, she would’ve lost both her children.
“They gave me my son,” she said. “He wouldn’t be here without them.”
Johnny is just one of 65 babies in the NICU room, which has 72 beds total.
“And that care needs to be provided here in state, not at McCarran Airport where somebody needs to go out to Los Angeles, Salt Lake City or Phoenix for this care,” Sklamberg said.
But the problem starts with Medicaid reimbursements. According to Sklamberg, Medicaid only plays Nevada hospitals 57% of the cost of care.
“One of the challenges that we have is that within the state of Nevada, the reimbursement provided to hospitals for acute care services today is the same amount that it was in 2001,” he said. “So in 17 years, there has not been a change in the actual reimbursement to the hospitals, despite inflation, despite new technology.”
82% of patients in the NICU are covered by Medicaid, including Brooklynn.
“In 2017, Sunrise Hospital lost $77 million in providing care to Medicaid recipients,” Sklamberg said. “And at that level, it is absolutely unsustainable.”
Sklamberg said it depends on the state to make changes. The legislature meets next month and if nothing improves, “over the next couple of months, we’re going to evaluate those services that we’re going to be able to continue to provide,” Sklamberg said. “We’re working actively with the legislature and the governor’s office to try to find a solution. But the state needs to prioritize health care.”
Sunrise does not know what those NICU cuts would be or the extent of them.
“If we look from 2012 to 2017, our losses providing care have increased by 91%,” Sklamberg said. “I anticipate those losses to increase in 2018 and continue to increase in 2019 as well.”
But patients like Brooklynn said the bottom line goes beyond dollars and cents.
“That just means lives lost in the end,” she said “That’s really sad.”
Brooklynn hopes to take Baby Bagley home this weekend.
Sunrise launched its Every Baby Counts campaign to raise awareness of the funding problem.
If you want to sign their petition, which will go to legislators, visit: everybabycountsnv.org