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Schumer: Vassar Medical Center Likely To Get Increased Federal Funding - Major Breakthrough

The Medicare bill that passed this year provided $900 million to increase payments to a list of hospitals that previously did not include Vassar Medical Center

Schumer called top federal official on Medicare this week and pushed him to reclassify Vassar Medical Center so that it will be included on the list

Federal web site now says Vassar Medical Center will get the reclassification, provided

US Senator Charles E. Schumer today announced that a major hurdle has been cleared in his effort to persuade the top federal official on Medicare, Dr. Mark McClellan, to reclassify the Vassar Medical Center of Dutchess County in a way that will send the hospital millions more in federal dollars. The Medicare bill that passed this year provided $900 million to increase payments to a list of hospitals that previously did not include Vassar Medical Center but Schumer has convinced McClellan, the Administrator of CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services), to include the hospital, provided it submits a letter demonstrating that it meets three criteria (outlined below).

"We always said that every New York hospital should get the money it needs to be competitive," Schumer said. "It's starting to look good for Vassar Medical Center and now we need to dot the t's and cross the i's to make sure that the money comes through. We've cleared a real hurdle today and now we need to push to make sure that the feds complete the deal."

The recently passed Medicare bill provided $900 million to "reclassify" certain hospitals to increase their payments. While local representatives were successful in getting CMS to write the criteria so that most of the hospitals in Orange and Dutchess would qualify, Vassar Medical Center's request was rejected, causing them to receive payments nearly 20% lower than almost all of the other hospitals in these two counties.

Last month, Schumer met with the new CEO of Health Quest, Dr. Adil Ameer, which owns Vassar Medical Center Hospital in Dutchess County. Health Quest asked Schumer to call Dr. McClellan to push him to fix the decision CMS made about "reclassifying" the hospital for Medicare payment purposes. Without the change, Vassar Medical Center would be the only hospital in the DutchessOrange MSA (Metropolitan Statistical Area) that did not get a significant increase in payments as a result of the reclassification provision in the Medicare bill, putting them at an untenable disadvantage.

According to the CMS web site ( today, Vassar Medical Center will in fact be reclassified and included on the list of hospitals receiving more money, beginning in October, provided it meets the following three criteria. The hospital will have to submit a letter showing: 1) That the whole county has come together and done a countywide appeal for reclassification that was denied (which it did);

2) 1/3 of the hospitals in the county have been reclassified already (which they have);

3) There's at least a 10 percent differential between the hospital's payments and a neighboring hospital's payments (there is).

Given the fact that Vassar Medical Center meets these criteria, Schumer said that it looks good that it will receive the increased funding. In addition, Schumer noted that the change for Vassar Medical Center will not take money away from any other New York hospitals. The web site also clarifies that St. Francis Hospital and Health Centers will receive this reclassification pending similar verification of the criteria as well; previously, there had been confusion about its status.

Schumer also thanked US Representative Maurice Hinchey for his hard work in the effort.