03.17.15

SCHUMER TO FEDS: APPROVE OVER $700K IN FUNDS MOUNT VERNON NEIGHBORHOOD HEALTH CENTER NETWORK IN WESTCHESTER DESERVES; NETWORK HAS BEEN WAITING TWO YEARS TO RECEIVE FUNDS – SENATOR URGES FEDS TO EXPEDITE RELEASE OF DESPERATELY NEEDED FUNDING TO HELP KEEP SITES IN MT. VERNON, YONKERS & GREENBURGH OPERATING AT FULL CAPACITY

Mount Vernon Neighborhood Health Center Network in Westchester Provides More Than 23,000 Patients Living in Poverty With Valuable Health Services, But is Currently Operating Without $700K in Medicaid Funds It Has Been Promised – Funding Has Been Awaiting Fed Approval For Over Two Years & Mt. Vernon Has Been Forced To Expend Its Own Reserves to Cover The Gap

 

Schumer Urges Centers of Medicare & Medicaid Services to Quickly Approve Mt. Vernon Neighborhood Health Center Network’s Application for Fed Funds; Has Locations in Greenburgh, Mt. Vernon and Yonkers – Funding Will Help the Neighborhood Health Center to Better Treat Patients With Diabetes & Hypertension

 

Schumer: Health Center is Vital to Reverse Mt. Vernon Poverty Rate; Should Not Be Forced To Operate With One Hand Tied Behind Its Back

 

Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer urged the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to quickly approve and release over $700,000 in federal funds to the Mount Vernon Neighborhood Health Center (MTVNHC) – funding it has been waiting over two years to receive – so that the organization can continue to best serve residents at its three locations: Mount Vernon Neighborhood Health Center, Yonkers Community Health Center, and Greenburgh Health Center. Schumer explained that the MTVNHC provides 82,494 Westchester County patients with vital healthcare services each year. Of these patients, 28 percent—approximately 23,098—of these patients are underserved residents who live below the poverty line. Additionally, 48 percent of its patients are also uninsured. Mt. Vernon has been set to receive federal aid over the course of 2014, 2015 and 2016 through the CMS’ Vital Access Provider (VAP) program, which helps safety net health care providers that are financially struggling. Thus far, however, MTVNHC has not received any of the funding they were supposed to receive, which it needs in order to stay financially strong over the long term. Schumer urged CMS to work with New York State to quickly approve and release a total of $739,599.

 

“The Mount Vernon Neighborhood Health Center is a lifeline to lift up thousands of Westchester County residents living under the poverty line. MTVNHC provides invaluable services to underserved Westchester residents each year, but they are currently being forced to operate with one hand tied behind their back. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services owes MTVNHC a decision on an application worth over $700,000 and it is well past time for this funding to be released,” said Senator Schumer. “MTVNHC is a vital asset on the front lines of addressing Westchester’s poverty rate and now is not the time to withhold critical funding. For a mom struggling to get out of poverty who literally can’t afford to miss a day of work to get care for a sick child, MVNHC is a lifeline. MTVNHC has a plan to put these federal funds to good use, using them to increase outreach efforts and re-design systems to better care for patients, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services needs to quickly approve their VAP application and get MTVNHC the funding it deserves right away.”

 

The Mount Vernon Neighborhood Health Center (MTVNHC) is a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) that, as a health provider, serves as a true safety net for the surrounding communities in Westchester County. With 28 percent of Mt. Vernon’s patients 200 percent below the federal poverty level, it serves the most vulnerable patients in the area. Schumer explained that MTVNHC serves the population where intervention is needed and required to help reverse Westchester’s poverty rate. Currently, MVNHC serves 82,494 unique patients at its centers in Greenburgh, Mt. Vernon and Yonkers. Patients receive primary care, dental care, and other medical services at MVNHC. According to Mt. Vernon, 48 percent of its patients were uninsured as of December 2014.

 

At MTVNHC, patients do not just receive primary health care services, but can also access resources such as social workers, nutritional guidance, case management, and specialty services such as dermatology and ophthalmology. The organization provides valuable health and community-based services to the region. Schumer said this VAP funding would specifically help support Mt. Vernon’s current health programs aimed at treating patients suffering from diabetes and hypertension.

 

MTVNHC applied for Vital Access Provider funds through New York State, which supplements Medicaid funds and helps healthcare facilities in dire financial straits stay open to the public. The organization applied for and was approved by the state for a three-year award cycle of funds. Overall, MTVNHC was approved for $739,599, with half of the potential funding allocated directly by CMS and half allocated by New York State. In 2014 the organization was supposed to receive $236,152, in 2015 $251,139; the remaining $252,308 was to be released in 2016. To date, Schumer said, MVNHC has not received a cent of these federal funds. Schumer today said that, MVNHC has expended its own reserves to implement state-backed agency initiatives. Now, without the VAP funding, MTVNHC is feeling the financial stress of not having this funding. 

 

Schumer today urged CMS to approve and provide funds for the MVNHC. Schumer explained that this urgently needed funding supplements Medicaid funds, which will help these organizations to continue to provide vital health care services. Schumer pushed CMS to work closely with New York State so the money is released as quickly as possible. The Vital Access Provider (VAP) Program is critical to assisting New York in meeting its goals of transforming the healthcare delivery system through meeting community service needs, improving the quality of care and increasing health equity for populations at risk. Facilities like MTVNHC care for vulnerable members of their communities and provide critical health services to patients every day while striving to more cost effectively continue to provide this care, and the delay in receiving VAP funding is creating unnecessary burdens.

 

A copy of Senator Schumer’s letter to CMS appears below:

 

Dear Acting Administrator Slavitt,

 

I write on behalf of 10 Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC) and the over 500,000 patients they serve in New York. Specifically, I urge the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to work with the New York State Department of Health to approve pending State Plan Amendments (SPA) designed to allow a temporary increase in Medicaid funding for more than $8.3 million through the state approved Vital Access Provider (VAP) Program. 

 

The 11 FQHCs with pending applications are: Access Community Health Center, Anthony L. Jordan Health Corporation, Apicha Community Health Center, East Hill Family Medical Inc., Finger Lakes Community Health, Hudson River Health Care, Inc., Morris Heights Health Center, Inc., Mount Vernon Neighborhood Health Center Network, Regional Primary Care Network, Inc., the Floating Hospital and the Institute for Family Health. These are true safety net providers for their communities with 81.5% of the 506,500 patients living below 200% of the federal poverty level.

 

The Vital Access Provider Program is critical to assisting New York in meeting its goals of transforming the healthcare delivery system by focusing on community service needs, improving the quality of care and increasing health equity for populations at risk. These applications have been pending approval at CMS for over 2 years with ongoing communication between CMS and the New York State Department of Health.  All of these facilities are caring for vulnerable members of their communities and providing critical services. While they are striving to more efficiently and cost effectively continue to provide care in facilities in neighborhoods convenient to patients throughout the state, the delay in receiving VAP funding is creating unnecessary burdens.

 

As we continue to work together to build an integrated health care system where we are constantly improving quality of care, increasing capacity to serve our communities, engaging people in primary care and preparing to fully move to payment for value, not volume, our vital providers need your support. Therefore, I ask your immediate assistance to approve these applications and this vital funding.  Please do not hesitate to contact me should you have any questions or concerns.  Thank you for your assistance to this timely issue.

 

Sincerely,

 

Charles E. Schumer

United States Senator

 

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