Lawrence Memorial Hospital continues to wrestle with how to educate its patients and the public about the Affordable Care Act, a major phase of which is about to be implemented. But as the days tick until the law's health insurance exchanges go online, the hospital's options are becoming clearer.
Janice Early, LMH's director of community relations, told the hospital's Board of Trustees on Wednesday that all the insurance plans offered on the marketplaces have LMH in their networks, freeing the hospital from having to market any specific coverage options. But LMH still plans to provide community outreach about the law, which is commonly known as Obamacare.
"We'll be working with others in the community, because we still have an obligation to educate," Early said.
Chief Financial Officer Joe Pedley said the hospital is looking into getting certified applications counselors to assist people in signing up for the insurance exchanges, which begin open enrollment Oct. 1.
In other news, Sherri Vaughn, a family doctor who recruits physicians for LMH, said the hospital recently signed a new oncologist and is currently recruiting in the fields of endocrinology and rheumatology, two major areas of need in Lawrence besides primary care.
"Between now and the first of the year is an extremely busy time for Sherri," LMH CEO Gene Meyer said. For medical students finishing their residencies in July, "we affectionally say all the good ones make their decisions between now and the end of the year. … It's prime recruiting season."
Vaughn also is starting a new family medicine practice, Total Family Care, that will offer early morning, lunch and evening hours on different days of the week. The practice at 1130 W. Fourth St., Suite 3200, opens Monday and eventually plans to have three primary-care doctors.
Also at Wednesday's Board of Trustees meeting, Chief Operating Officer Karen Shumate said LMH is pursuing a new food-service contract that would give the hospital a fresher, healthier menu.
Shumate said that while LMH currently serves a great deal of processed and fried food, the new company would offer fresh, unprocessed meals cooked daily by a chef, with room service for patients. She said the hospital expects to save money with the new service, in part by wasting less food.
"Toward the end of the year, the last quarter, we should see a significant improvement in our food offerings," she said.