Laconia begins planning for 125th anniversary celebration

LACONIA — The initiative to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the city got underway this week with the announcement that a committee has been convened to plan the event, which is tentatively scheduled for July 2018.

Pam Clark, president of the Laconia Historical and Museum Society, said that the committee to plan for the anniversary will hold its first meeting on Tuesday, April 12, at 6:30 p.m., at the Central Fire Station. Apart from electing officers and forming subcommittees, the agenda includes a discussions of both the vision and budget for the event.

Clark anticipates that at least five subcommittees will be formed to deal with fundraising, publicity, logistics and entertainment as well as preparing materials and arranging events to recall the history of the city.

Clark stressed that the meeting is open to all and welcomed anyone wishing to participate.

For further information, Clark can be reached by telephone at 387-1285 or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

– Michael Kitch

High percentage of Medicare & Medicaid patients weighing on LRGHealthcare's ability to stay in the black

LACONIA — When LRGHeathcare announced this week that it was shedding 58 full-time employees, Ken Merrifield, the mayor of Franklin, was quick, online, to place the blame on "Obamacare" and he was at once echoed by Congreressman Frank Guinta.

However, in seeking to score political points both apparently overlooked pressures at work across both the entire state and the Lakes Region that are weighing on hospitals in general and LRGHealthcare in particular.

In January, the New Hampshire Hospital Association reported that while the operating margins of hospitals nationwide rose to 5.7 percent in 2015 those of their not-for-profit counterparts in New Hampshire fell to less than half that at 1.9 percent. LRGHealthcare posted an even lower operating margin of 1.2 percent for its fiscal year 2014, the last reported.

The association pointed to two major factors bearing on the financial performance of hospitals: reduced Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements and lower reimbursement rates from private insurers.

Medicaid reimbursement rates in New Hampshire are the lowest among the 50 states. And while, nationwide, hospitals lose on average about 14 cents on the dollar treating Medicare patients, in New Hampshire the average loss more than doubles to 30 cents on the dollar. Moreover, since the population of the state is aging rapidly, the rising share of Medicare patients will add to the losses.

As private health insurers began offering plans that offset high premiums with high deductibles and co-pays, insurers seeking to enhance the competitiveness of their products and patients bearing a greater share of their health care expenses have begun exerting downward pressure on hospital charges. At the same time, when patients are unable to pay their high deductibles, hospitals are left with bad debt.

These pressures weigh particularly heavily on LRGHealthcare. In 2014, 11.4 percent of the population of the Winnipesaukee Public Health Region was living at or below the federal poverty level compared to 8.7 percent in the state as a whole. In the region 17.4 percent of the children younger than 17 were living in poverty compared to 11.1 percent in the state as a whole.

Among the patients served by LRGHealthcare 14.4 percent were enrolled in Medicaid and 18.4 in Medicare, compared to 10.7 percent and 15.2 percent in the state. For 2014, LRGHeathcare reported that the cost of caring for Medicaid and Medicare patients exceed reimbursement payments by $17.6 million and $14.7 million respectively. Meanwhile, the organization absorbed $1.4 million in uncollected debt and provide $1.8 million in charitable care.

Meanwhile, the population of Belknap County, which represents much area served by LRGHealthcare, is among the most rapidly aging in the state. with a median age of 45.5, the third highest among the 10 counties. Only two counties had a greater proportion of people aged 65 and older in 2010 and by 2030 that share is projected to top 37 percent, exceeded only by the 49 percent of seniors in Carroll County.

As the population ages, the demand for health care increases. But, at the same time, as people age and retire they drop their private health insurance and enroll in Medicare. As result, the hospitals are treating a growing volume of patients but receiving less reimbursement — between a third and two-thirds less according to the treatment and procedure — for doing so.

Not surprisingly the New Hampshire Hospital Association called the present moment "a precarious point in time for hospitals."

Dr. Robert Evans named interim CEO at LRGHealthcare

LACONIA — The Board of Trustees of LRGHeathcare has appointed Dr. Robert Evans, an anesthesiologist who has been with the organization since 1991, as interim president and chief executive officer.

Evans succeeds Seth Warren who after serving for six months tendered his resignation for undisclosed personal reasons last month.

Apart from his clinical experience, Evans has served on a variety of committees overseeing both medical staff and hospital administration since 1994. He joined the board of trustees in 1995 and has chaired its Finance and Investment Committee since 1999.

In addition to his medical degree from the School of Medicine at Tufts University, Evans, a native of Rochester, earned a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration at the University of New Hampshire.

In a prepared statement Scott Clarenbach, chairman of the board, said that "Dr. Evans' business and medical education, along with his extensive experience with LRGHealthcare's clinical operations and financial performance, make him the right choice for this interim position. Along with the board and senior team," he continued, "his insight and assessment of our organization's processes and financial turnaround will be vital as make the transition to a new CEO."

For his part, Evans said in a prepared statement, "I'm honored to be selected to lead LRGHealthcare through this transition. My experience in multiple realms of health care operations has afforded me the ability to review things from all perspectives and I look forward to doing just that in my new role."

Evans will assume his new responsibilities on Monday, April 4.