The Journal Register (Medina, NY)

January 9, 2013

Aid continues for rural hospitals

By Jim Krencik
Medina Journal-Register

Medina Journal-Register — ALBION — U.S. Senator Charles Schumer detailed Monday how a Medicare program that is expected to provides Orleans Community Health with more than a half-million dollars in assistance was approved as part of a much larger agreement.

Schumer announced that the restoration of the Low Volume Hospital Program, which provides Medicare funding for small hospitals in rural areas, at a gathering at the Orleans Community Healthcare Center. The program expired at the end of September, removing $560,000 in estimated annual aid to OCH. 

Congress voted to extend the program through September of this year, providing a total of more than $1.6 million to the three GLOW Region healthcare systems. Together they employ more than 1,500 people and provide care that otherwise would be out-of-reach for an aging population.

Orleans Community Health, whose services includes the Medina Memorial Hospital, is also receiving reimbursements for the aid lost in the three-month delay in reauthorizing the program.

Schumer said the hold-up was due to the overall delaying of new legislation as both parties and both houses worked out a deal to avert the so-called “Fiscal Cliff” and the broader battle over entitlement programs.

“It was caught up in the larger Medicare fight,” said Schumer, who explained that he and Senator Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, were able to lobby their colleagues to support the program. “We established clearly that this is bi-partisan issue and showed there is a need ... when we described what the program did, it was very well received.”

Schumer noted that the new Orleans Community Healthcare Center is a sign of the changing nature of healthcare in rural areas. Services have improved in Albion and other under-served areas, but the financial hurdles are always

“Places like this have changed the standards for rural care,” Schumer said. “But a few weeks ago, it seemed that everything that is achieved here was in jeopardy.”

Orleans Community Health CEO Jim Sinner said the status of Medicare and related programs is an important concern for rural healthcare providers. He estimated that more than half of OCH’s reimbursements come from federal or state-provided health insurance.

“With healthcare, we’re never completely out of the woods,” said Sinner, noting the larger fight over Medicare’s scope looming back in Washington. “There are a lot of impending cuts.”

Thanks to a small piece of a year-ending compromise in Washington, there is one less concern for the area’s healthcare pr

“This ensures the doctor is in,” Schumer said.

Contact reporter Jim Krencik at 798-1400, ext. 6327.