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Schumer: Bill to protect low volume hospitals like CPH, MMH passes in Finance Committee

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WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer’s legislation to permanently extend two Medicare payment programs that are critical to rural hospitals in Upstate New York has cleared a key hurdle with its passage in the Senate Finance Committee, according to a release from the senator’s office.

These programs, which Sen. Schumer said are crucial to the hospitals, their employees and the rural communities that they serve, must be renewed every year. This lack of security and certainty of this critical funding can be debilitating for these hospitals, and Sen. Schumer’s legislation would make these payments for both Low-Volume Hospitals and Medicare Dependent Hospitals permanent.

The Low Volume Hospital Program impacts 18 New York hospitals - including Massena Memorial, Canton-Potsdam, Claxton-Hepburn and E.J. Noble - providing Medicare support to hospitals that are very important to rural communities, but do not necessarily serve a high volume of patients. The Medicare-Dependent Hospital Program provides support to six hospitals in New York that treat a high number of Medicare patients. At least 60 percent of acute inpatient days or discharges must come from Medicare in order for these hospitals to qualify for the MDH program. Schumer’s legislation, which he introduced with Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), extended these programs permanently. Schumer’s legislation must now pass the full Senate.

Schumer also helped prevent five Low-Volume hospitals from being cut from this program, which would have been devastating to those facilities. Those hospitals are: Alice Hyde Medical Center, Nicholas H. Noyes Memorial Hospital, Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center, Oneida Healthcare Center, and Canton-Potsdam Hospital. These hospitals receive payment from Medicare on a sliding scale and must have at least 200 but no more than 1600 Medicare discharges in order to receive reimbursement.

“I am thrilled that my legislation, which will provide life-saving funding to twenty-two rural hospitals in Upstate New York, has cleared this key hurdle in the Senate Finance Committee. This legislation, if it becomes law, will permanently extend the millions of dollars that these hospitals need in order to treat the high number of Medicare patients and to support rural communities. I will continue to fight for this legislation to pass the entire Senate and become law,” said Senator Schumer.

Low-Volume Hospital Program:

■ E.J. Noble Hospital of Gouverneur — $553,000

■ Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center — $614,000

■ Canton-Potsdam Hospital — $480,000

■ Massena Memorial Hospital — $457,000

■ Alice Hyde Medical Center - $491,000

Low volume hospitals are those that are critical to the community but may not serve a high volume of patients. There are 18 Low Volume hospitals that receive $9.4 million annually from this program. Since 1988, the Medicare program has recognized that these hospitals need additional support so that they can continue to provide high quality care to rural communities. A low-volume hospital is defined as one that is more than 15 road miles from another comparable hospital and has fewer than 1,600 Medicare discharges a year.

Medicare seeks to pay efficient providers their costs of furnishing services. However, certain factors beyond providers’ control can affect the costs of furnishing services. Patient volume is one such factor and is particularly relevant in small and isolated communities where providers frequently cannot achieve the economies of scale possible for their larger counterparts.

There are approximately 18 hospitals in New York that qualify for the low-volume hospital program.

Schumer’s bill extends the additional payments for low volume hospitals permanently.

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