The Journal Register (Medina, NY)

October 17, 2012

Medicare adjustment program "crucial" to small hospitals, Schumer says in Albion.

Medina Journal-Register

Medina Journal-Register — ALBION — A group of dignitaries filled into the front room of the Orleans Community Healthcare Center Tuesday to see firsthand how healthcare opportunities in rural areas can be expanded and to discuss a looming issue that could prevent similar projects from occurring in the GLOW region.

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer was joined by officials from Orleans Community Health and health systems in Livingston and Wyoming Counties as he announced a legislative push to restore the Low Volume Hospital Program, which expired Sept. 30, at the newly-opened Albion facility.

The program, which has run for nearly a quarter of a century, provides a Medicare payment adjustment to rural hospitals, like Medina Memorial Hospital, that are more than 15 road miles from another comparable hospital and have fewer than 1,600 annual Medicare discharges.

Those hospitals, Schumer said, need additional support to provide high-quality care to rural communities.

“Hospitals like Orleans Community Health are the lifeblood of rural economies throughout Upstate New York, and they deserve our support,” said Schumer, who along with Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), introduced legislation to extend the program for another year and make payment retroactive to the program’s expiration. “Efficiently supporting our rural hospitals and their patients allows medical facilities in Western New York to continue providing high quality health services.”

For the Medina Memorial Hospital, which Orleans Community Health President and Chief Executive Officer Jim Sinner said discharges around 1,000 Medicare patients, about 40 percent of the hospital’s discharges; Schumer said the impact would be an estimated $416,000 in lost compensation if funding is not restored by the federal government.

Combined with the losses expected at the Nicholas H. Noyes Memorial Hospital in Dansville and the Wyoming County Community Hospital in Warsaw, GLOW community hospitals would lose $1.7 million in “essential payments.”

Sinner the loss of the fund would have a major impact Orleans Community Health, which he said has spent more than $800,000 from the hospital’s operating budget to construct the Albion healthcare center. OCH officials had wide smiles as they led a group of local and healthcare officials through the facility.

”This is where healthcare is headed,” Sinner said.

The Albion site, located on State Highway 31, already offers lab work and physical and occupational therapy. It will offer primary care, access to specialists and house both an internal medicine physician and a general family physician when it is fully operational later this year.

”(Seeing the facility) I’m reassured that the people in Orleans County ... are receiving healthcare as good as those in urban and suburban areas,” Schumer said.

Those advances would be restrained, officials from the three GLOW hospitals said, if the costs of furnishing comparable services in markets that have a lower patient volume cannot be contained.

”Without the (adjustment), Noyes risks losing qualified staff due to an inability to keep up with the wage market; inability to purchase updated technology for patient care and potentially cutting patient services,” said Amy Pollard, the President and CEO of Noyes Memorial Hospital, who said the current adjustment is equal to at least 15 full-time positions.