Chilton Medical Center ranked Tier 1

Published 7:57 pm Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Chilton County Medical Center has earned a special ranking that might save residents money the next time they visit the hospital for care.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama has named CMC a “Tier One Hospital.”

The ranking recognizes hospitals that have taken steps to improve healthcare quality while reducing costs.

The status will benefit CMC patients because many BCBS policies charge higher co-pays for hospitals that aren’t Tier One.

“Though every employer’s plan is different, we think that this will decrease costs for many people,” said Debra Richardson, chief clinical officer at CMC.

Now in its fourth year, the tiered network rates hospitals in 12 different categories.

These categories relate to quality of service, patient safety or the fiscal relationship between hospitals and BCBS.

In past years, CMC earned perfect scores in every category but one. The hospital has been renegotiating its contract with Blue Cross and Blue Shield concerning how much the insurance company pays for most medical procedures.

Without that contract, the highest a hospital can score in the tier ranking is 75 out of 100, which CMC did last year. Hospitals must score 80 to be considered Tier One.

“By having that contract in place now, we go to Tier One,” said Gary Tate, chief financial officer at CMC. “Before, we scored as high as we could without the contract.”

Hospital staff members hope the rankings mean more patients for CMC, which will ultimately result in expanded services.

“We hope they will utilize the hospital,” Richardson said. “Patients can now get service here, close to home, for the same cost as elsewhere.”

The new rankings went into effect July 1. For 2009, 77 hospitals achieved Tier 1 status in Alabama. The status is only good for one year; hospitals must reapply and meet new criteria every year to keep the ranking.

Tier rankings for hospitals can be found online at

SunLink Healthcare out of Atlanta owns CMC, which is licensed for 60 beds. CMC’s emergency room saw 13,000 visitors last year, while doctors performed 700 surgeries at the hospital.