The seven non-partisan Trustees serve four-year terms without compensation or benefits. They are responsible for developing policy for IMH’s role in providing healthcare in Albany County, which includes operating Ivinson Memorial Hospital and assuring adequate medical staff for the community. All seats are At-Large, everyone in the county is in the District and votes for these candidates. There are three open positions this year. Those elected will join Terry Roark, Rick Melone, Catie Ballard, and James Martinchick, whose terms do not expire. No response was received from Guy Warpness.
What motivates you to run and makes you especially suited for this public office?
Dennis Cook: It has been my privilege to serve on the IMH Board for several terms during the past 20 years. As a result of that experience, I know that IMH is essential to the future health and growth of our community. I also know that IMH is capable of providing even more and better health care services to our community. Therefore, I would like to have the opportunity to work with the current experienced board of trustees and our excellent hospital leadership team to continue IMH’s growth as a leader in regional health care.
Rex Gantenbein: I have served on the hospital board for four years and wish to continue. We have a strong and collegial board, and we have a good working relationship with the administration. I also have served on the board for Medicine Bow Technologies. Personally, I recently retired as a Professor of Medical Education at UW, where my work focused on rural health research and education. I have lived in Laramie since 1985.
Without Medicaid expansion, what impacts would you expect in IMH’s future revenue picture?
Dennis Cook: The legislature’s refusal to accept federal Medicaid expansion funds to provide improved health care for over 20,000 of Wyoming’s working poor is incomprehensible. The Governor, the Wyoming Hospital Association, IMH and many others support Medicaid expansion to improve the health care for families who work but make too little to purchase insurance. Fortunately, IMH provides care for adults and children who cannot pay for their care, but not without consequences to every other paying patient. Unfortunately, without Medicaid expansion, IMH has to raise its costs to every other patient to pay for over $7,000,000.00 per year in uncompensated care.
Rex Gantenbein: The current budget for IMH includes almost $8,000,000 for uncompensated care. Fortunately, IMH is financially sound and can withstand this loss, but the problem is likely to continue as long as Wyoming’s economy struggles. Medicaid expansion would help to offset some of this loss and help keep IMH’s costs down. Equally important, however, is that expanding Medicaid would help many people in Laramie, and elsewhere, who do not have health insurance get access to wellness and preventive care that could keep them healthier and avoid more expensive care for more advanced conditions.
To what extent can the IMH board facilitate Laramie prospective patient’s ability to price shop in advance for medical procedures; or will they only learn the costs at IMH after the procedure is done?
Dennis Cook: IMH already participates with the Wyoming Hospital Association to provide cost and quality comparisons for many of its common hospital services. That information is accessible at www.wyohospitals.com. I certainly support health care consumers’ ability to make informed health care choices. I encourage every health care consumer to talk with their health care providers and health care insurers about their health care choices and the costs of their health care alternatives. IMH already works with patients to make informed choices about their health care.
Rex Gantenbein: The Wyoming Hospital Association maintains a comparison chart of both cost and quality for a number of procedures done in Wyoming hospitals. Comparing prices is difficult, of course, in that not all facilities charge for procedures in the same way. Laramie residents also need to consider the costs of going elsewhere for procedures and follow-up care in terms of travel, lodging for themselves and family, and time away from work or school.