When Jeremy Hod­shire walks through the halls of the Hillsdale Com­munity Health Center, he greets every doctor, nurse, and staff member by name, with a smile on his face.

As the Director of Orga­ni­za­tional Devel­opment and HCHC board member, Hodshire’s close rela­tionship with his fellow employees is exem­plary of the com­mitment the hos­pital has made to its patients and the broader Hillsdale com­munity — a com­mitment that will keep the hos­pital open and ready to serve, even in face of changes Pres­ident Barack Obama’s new health care laws have made to the oper­ation of rural hos­pitals.

“Our main pri­ority is to ensure that we have local healthcare for Hillsdale County,” Hod­shire said.

For the past 100 years, HCHC has been able to do just that. However, the Affordable Care Act has put rural, inde­pendent hos­pitals like Hillsdale’s in a dif­ficult position. As a result of this new leg­is­lation, 3,000 lives in Hillsdale County alone are now insured by Medicare or Med­icaid, gov­ernment-funded health insurance.

“We are chal­lenged as a small, rural hos­pital because of Med­icaid and Medicare. The gov­ernment pays us less than com­mercial insur­ances do, so we have to watch our bottom line very close,” Hod­shire said.

In fact, with the expansion of gov­ernment insurance, nearly 68 percent of the hospital’s insurance reim­bursement now comes from the gov­ernment.

Reim­bursement for those using Medicare and Med­icaid must be qual­ified by pos­itive patient feedback. Upon leaving the hos­pital, patients are selected at random to take a survey and review their expe­rience at HCHC. Should these results reflect poorly upon the hos­pital, the gov­ernment is able to withhold up to 30 percent of their pro­jected reim­bursement.

The hos­pital is cur­rently leading the country with its scores in quality care, and is in the 90th per­centile for employee sat­is­faction.

Hod­shire explained that all employees at HCHC are taking mea­sures to keep quality scores high. Doctors and nurses are taking classes in bedside manner and par­tic­i­pating in other pro­grams that teach them the skills of cus­tomer rela­tions, because the hos­pital is com­mitted to achieving the scores it needs to keep its budget intact and its doors open.

The employees’ work isn’t only within the hos­pital, however. Employees are also reaching out to the Hillsdale com­munity.

“We realized that at the hos­pital we’re dependent on a robust economy,” said Duke Anderson, CEO. “We par­tic­ipate as an orga­ni­zation which is in a rela­tionship with the private sector.”

While Hillsdale County used to be home to man­u­fac­turing com­panies tied to the auto­motive industry, the recent eco­nomic crisis has led to the closing of fac­tories. Because of this, workers who used to be insured by Blue Cross Blue Shield or other com­mercial insur­ances are now covered by Medicare or Med­icaid. Con­scious of this, HCHC is fighting to build rela­tion­ships with busi­nesses, the Eco­nomic Department Part­nership, and South Central Michigan.

Of course, while their efforts extend outside of the hos­pital, they’re pri­marily focused on making sure their facility is of quality and is up-to-date.

“We’re always looking at ways to reinvent our­selves,” Hod­shire said.

HCHC is a 100-bed hos­pital, but it’s also home to a 40-bed nursing home, a brand-new obstetrics unit, and four oper­ating room suites. In one year, the hos­pital will perform 140,000 out­pa­tient ser­vices, which include X‑rays and blood draws.

HCHC is also a teaching hos­pital, and is part­nered with Michigan State Uni­versity, pro­viding a place for young doctors to train for their future careers. They also offer a vol­unteer program for stu­dents at Hillsdale College on the pre-medical track. Stu­dents earn their cer­ti­fi­cation as a Nursing Assistant free of charge, and provide help to the hospital’s emer­gency room, learning valuable expe­ri­ences as they watch doctors and nurses at work and assist in logis­tical tasks.

“If you really want to be a doctor, this gets you used to it so the first time you’re in an envi­ronment you’re com­fortable,” said Hillsdale College sophomore Emma Carville.

Between training the next gen­er­ation of doctors and rein­venting itself to meet the new gov­ernment stan­dards, HCHC is intent upon remaining available for Hillsdale County.

“At the hos­pital, we pursue the three Cs,” Hod­shire said. “Caring for patients and their fam­ilies, com­mitment to them, and com­munity. We need their part­nership to make sure this hos­pital stays open another 100 years.”