Sen. Schumer says Medicare rule change would lead to windfall for Capital Region hospitals
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer stopped by Albany Medical Center this week to continue his quest to adjust the Medicare Wage Index. The New York Democrat says the change would benefit are hospitals.
Schumer has written to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, calling on the agency to finalize a recent proposed rule change that would see nearly $200 million flow annually to hospitals across the Capital Region.
“For years Capital Region hospitals struggled, and that's the right word, with unfairly low Medicare wage index payments," Schumer said. "And so they got less money. Albany area families see the impact every day, because our hospitals have to operate on razor-thin budgets. Upstate communities have to figure out how to hire the best doctors and nurses when they're not reimbursed at the prevailing rate for what they have to pay them. And so it's very important. So now I'm standing here with every major healthcare provider in the Capital Region, Albany Med, St. Peter's Ellis, all of whom have big benefits, to say that we in the Capital Region, need this shot in the arm. CMS needs to finalize the rule.”
As proposed, Schumer says the Capital Region stands to receive a 43 percent increase in the Medicare wage payments it receives, the second largest increase in the country under the proposed formula.
Schumer broke down the numbers.
“Columbia Memorial will get $8 million more a year. Albany Medical will get $84 million more a year. Ellis will get $30 million more a year, Samaritan will get $2 million more a year, Saratoga will get $2 million more a year, St. Peter's will get $60 million more a year. Glens Falls will get $3 million more a year, and Sunnyview Rehab will get $263,000,” said Schumer.
The Medicare Wage Index rate is used to determine how much money the federal government pays hospitals for labor costs when they treat Medicare patients. Since the 1980s, Schumer says hospitals in the Albany area have received 86 percent of what the average hospital receives to account for wages.
Christopher Jordan is St. Peter’s Health Partners Senior Vice President of Hospital Operations.
“Quite simply, the way hospitals have been paid by Medicare is broken," Jordan said. "The hospitals of the Capital Region and ultimately our communities that we serve, suffer from this inequity. For decades, our facilities have been reimbursed well below average rates, which has shortchanged our hospitals and the patients that we serve. For both Ellis and St. Peter's Health Partners, the majority of our patients are on government insurance programs. Appropriately addressing the payment deficits that exist across our region would be a tremendous help in closing this gap.”
Albany Med President and CEO Dr. Dennis McKenna.
“Should the Medicare rate index be adjusted, and we certainly hope it will be, we can move forward with more flexibility and more certainty, continuing to grow our workforce, managing the rising expenses, and providing our communities with the care that they expect, and they in fact deserve,” said McKenna.
CMS will continue to take public comments until June 9th prior to making a decision.