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Medicare rule change could add $8.5M to UMMC yearly budget

By Chris Butler

A proposed rule change from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) could provide Batavia’s United Memorial Medical Center (UMMC) with an additional $8.5 million every year.

Other hospitals across the state would benefit with their own additional funding. The overall proposal, currently under review, could bring an additional $967 million every year to hospitals in upstate New York.

The proposal, if implemented, would deliver a big win for UMMC, whose administrators have long complained Medicare has underfunded them.
The state has a shortage of doctors and nurses. With additional funding, UMMC and other hospitals could pay for more specialists from both professions.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced the proposal Friday. He said hospital systems across upstate New York have for many years received less than the national average for the services they provide.

Rochester Regional Health (RRH) oversees UMMC. In a statement, company officials predicted good things will come from this extra funding.

“We are optimistic that this proposed rule change would be an important first step on the federal level to address the years of Medicare underfunding we’ve experienced,” according to the statement.
“Currently, RRH receives around $0.84 for every $1 we spend on Medicare patients. Moving forward, we will keep on working with our federal, state and local partners in the fight for fair funding levels so we can continue to provide the high-quality health care this community needs and deserves.”

The Medicare Wage Index rate is used to determine how much money the U.S. government pays hospitals for labor costs when they treat Medicare patients. Each metro area is assigned a rate that dictates whether they receive more or less than the national average for health care labor costs.

Since the 1980s, Schumer said hospitals in the Albany area, for instance, have received only 86 percent of what the average hospital receives to account for wages, which does not reflect that city’s true wages and labor market.

“This means that hospitals from Buffalo to Albany and Watertown to Binghamton, big and small, in rural and urban areas, can get the support they have long deserved,” Schumer said.

“I will use all my clout as majority leader to push CMS to finalize this proposed wage increase, and I won’t stop until Upstate NY hospitals get the full reimbursements they have been denied for too long.” 

Photo of United Memorial Medical Center in Batavia, by Howard Owens.

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