February 18, 2012
Medicare cuts to hospitals averted
Congress backs off plan to cut nearly $500 million from NY hospitals
Cortland Regional Medical Center and Cayuga Medical Center have been spared cuts to their Medicare reimbursements over the next 10 years.
Sen. Chuck Schumer announced Friday that the larger piece of legislation that includes an extension of the payroll tax cut, does not include a $494 million cut to state hospitals over the next decade.
Cortland Regional Medical Center and Cayuga Medical Center faced a total combined cut of $3.6 million.
“This is a huge victory for upstate New York hospitals and clinics which provide life-saving services every single day,” Schumer said in a news release.
“These cuts would have put a serious damper on patient care, potentially forcing seniors to drive hours more to see their physician, or cutting off doctor-access altogether. Hospitals are a key stitch in the fabric of our rural communities, and this news ensures that they’ll have the resources they need to continue providing top-notch medical care.”
Medicare clinic funding reimburses hospitals for common services, such as caring for sprains, cuts and minor burns.
In some rural areas of the state, hospital clinics are often the only place Medicare patients can access doctors, Schumer said.
In Syracuse, Crouse Hospital, St. Joseph’s Hospital and University Hospital faced a combined cut of $28 million.
John Turner, vice-president for public relations at Cayuga Medical Center said the hospital was pleased with the result of the bill but added there are still future cuts coming.
“New York hospitals and health systems are already targeted for $15 billion in Medicare and Medicaid cuts under the Affordable Care Act over the next 10 years,” he said. “We applaud Senator Schumer’s successful efforts to head off additional funding cuts.”
Cayuga Medical Center operates a convenience care center in Cortland.
The cuts were part of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2011, passed by the House of Representatives on Dec. 13. A joint committee of Senate and House members removed the provision cutting Medicare payments.
During a conference call last month, Schumer characterized the cuts as a case of “robbing Peter to pay Paul.”
The cut would have been a temporary fix to the formula used to pay physicians. Since 2002, Congress has passed legislation to temporarily fix the formula, called the Sustainable Growth Rate.
Instead, the final piece of legislation offsets the cost of fixing the SGR by fixing technical errors and reducing spending on providers and corporations according to the release by Schumer’s office.
Tom Quinn, spokesman for Cortland Regional Medical Center said even if the legislation had passed with the Medicare cuts, the hospital would have found a way to maintain the same level of care.
“For us, it really would have only affected our Prompt Care center,” he said. “We received around $2.9 million in Medicare reimbursement last year and of 12,750 patients that came to Prompt Care, about 8 percent qualified for Medicare.”
Cortland Regional Medical Center’s annual operating budget is around $97 million.
The hospital will have to remain vigilant for future cuts though.
“Health care and hospitals are often targeted for cuts so we’ll keep an eye out and do our best to maintain the best possible care,” he said.
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