10.13.17

SCHUMER: IF CONGRESS FAILS TO RESUSCITATE RURAL HOSPITAL FUNDING, OVER $1 MILLION FOR NATHAN LITTAUER HOSPITAL WILL BE AT RISK; SENATOR SAYS FUNDING LAPSE COULD “FLAT LINE” CARE IN FULTON COUNTY, HOSPITAL OPERATIONS, JOBS; URGES FOR IMMEDIATE RENEWAL AND TO MAKE PROGRAMS PERMANENT TO AVOID FUTURE CRIPPLING CUTS

Congressional Inaction Caused Vital Medicare Payment Programs Including The Low-Volume Hospital (LVH) And Medicare-Dependent Hospital (MDH) Programs To Expire, Hurting Rural Hospitals Like Nathan Littauer, Which Count On This Funding Each Year To Maintain Top-Notch Care For Fulton County Residents

Schumer Will Call For The Immediate Renewal And To Make Permanent Key Support Programs For Hospitals That Treat Rural Communities That Rely Heavily On Medicare & Other Critical-Care Programs  

Schumer: Congressional Inaction Will Put Many Capital Region Hospitals On Life-Support 

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, joined by patients, doctors, and administrators at Nathan Littauer Hospital today sounded the alarm and called for the immediate renewal of two Medicare payment programs critical to the health of rural hospitals across the Capital Region. Schumer said the Low-Volume Hospital (LVH) and Medicare-Dependent Hospital (MDH) Programs are essential to the health of rural hospitals like Nathan Littauer Hospital. Specifically, Schumer said without congressional action, Nathan Littauer could lose more than $1.2 million, which could be disastrous for senior citizens, working families, and access to health care in the region. Both programs are essential for the hospitals in rural New York, which are often under serious financial pressure due to a lower volume of patients and a higher percentage of Medicare beneficiaries than their urban and suburban counterparts.

“It is simply unacceptable that these life-saving programs including the Low-Volume Hospital and Medicare-Dependent Hospital Programs were allowed to flat line at the end of September. These critical programs ensure that hospitals like Nathan Littauer can continue to provide high-quality healthcare in the Capital Region,” said Senator Schumer. “These hospitals provide the highest caliber of care to every patient that walks through their doors. Allowing them to expire risks the health and well-being of the communities these hospitals so capably serve. That is why I’m pushing for Congress to immediately resuscitate these programs and to put an end to any uncertainty and continue to provide funding for the Low-Volume and Medicare-Dependent Hospital Programs.”

Schumer said Nathan Littauer Hospital is vital to Fulton County, serving more than 31,400 residents, 62 percent of whom are covered by Medicare or Medicaid.  In 2016, the hospital’s emergency room received 24,000 visits and 80 percent of its patients were insured by Medicare or Medicaid.  Additionally, the hospital is a major employer in this region, playing a key role in the local economy employing almost 1,000 people, most of whom live in Fulton, Montgomery, and Hamilton Counties. According to Schumer, the crucial services that Nathan Littauer Hospital provides to the community are in large part, funded by Medicare payment programs including the Low-Volume and Medicare-Dependent Hospital Programs. The hospital receives millions of dollars in additional Medicare payments per year, $1.2 million of which come from the Medicare-Dependent Hospital Program. Nearby, hospitals including St. Mary’s of Amsterdam receives $1.7 million and Cobleskill Hospital which receives $500K from Low Volume Hospital program. Additionally, hospitals in Upstate New York could stand to lose $12,447,500.

The Medicare-Dependent Hospital Program provides support to seven hospitals in New York that treat a high percentage of Medicare patients, and the Low-Volume Program impacts 18 New York hospitals that provided Medicare support to hospitals that are very important to rural communities but do not necessarily serve a high volume of patients. The programs expired on September 30th of this year and if they are not reauthorized soon Nathan Littauer Hospital in Gloversville will lose $1.2M in funds and St Mary’s of Amsterdam, $1.7M. Cobleskill hospital doesn’t have MDH but will lose $500K of LVH funding.

Schumer was joined by CEO of Nathan Littauer Hospital Laurence Kelly and staff. Also joining him were Christine Pirri, Vice President, Non-Clinical Operations and Compliance Officer, and Steven Kroll, Vice Chair, of Cobleskill Regional Hospital Board of Trustees, and HANYS President Bea Grause, and local officials.

“Senator Charles Schumer has a long history of timeless support of health care policy that strives to provide access to quality healthcare to all citizens of this country. He has been particularly supportive of rural hospitals. He understands the unique challenges small hospitals in rural areas face and the vital importance these hospitals play in access to care. Fulton, Hamilton, and Montgomery counties have populations older than average with incomes also lower than average. Our region’s rural population also lives with more chronic illnesses and conditions than urban populations,” said President and CEO, Laurence Kelly. “Federal legislation that has existed since 1990 called the Medicare Dependent Hospital Program supports hospitals, like Nathan Littauer Hospital, that are small, rural and have more than 60 percent of their patients enrolled in Medicare. Littauer has 69 percent. The program provides additional reimbursement to hospitals in the program to help maintain their ability to exist and provide quality, accessible care. Nathan Littauer Hospital receives over $1 million annually from the program. This funding is critical to our hospital and ultimately to the patients we serve. We applaud Senator Schumer’s efforts on behalf of Littauer and all of the MDH hospitals across America to have the program re-authorized.”

“The hospitals in rural and small communities across New York that benefit from the Medicare Dependent Hospital program and Medicare Low-Volume payments are vital to the well-being of their communities as providers of quality healthcare and largest employers in their towns,” said HANYS’ President Bea Grause. “The expiration of these programs brings hardship to these communities and we are grateful that Senator Schumer has championed the cause to extend these essential Medicare payments.”

Schumer explained that rural hospitals face many challenges due to serving a population that has a high percentage of Medicare beneficiaries, providing care to more isolated communities where it is harder to achieve economies of scale, and attending to a smaller volume of patients compared to urban and suburban hospitals. As a result, these rural hospitals are often financially strained, making it difficult to provide the same, high-quality care as urban hospitals and medical centers. The LVH and MDH Programs help make these hospitals viable, both of which expired on September 30th, and their loss is devastating for rural hospitals across the state, potentially affecting availability of services, accessibility and jobs.

Specifically, the Low-Volume Hospital Program provides funding to the rural hospitals that are critical to the community but may not serve a high volume of patients. The Medicare-Dependent Hospital Program provides funding to hospitals who mainly serve Medicare patients, bringing greater financial stability to the hospital and leaving them better able to serve these rural communities. For over 25 years, the federal government has provided funds to rural hospitals that qualify for these two programs through its dedicated Medicare funding stream in order to make sure they can provide the best care possible to rural residents. However, Schumer said, the expiration of these two programs could leave Upstate Hospitals under-funded, under-staffed, and New Yorkers, under-served.

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