A Health Care Break for Massachusetts Hospitals Draws Scrutiny

Governor Deval Patrick today named William “Mo” Cowan as the interim U.S. Senator from Massachusetts, and he will be immediately faced with an issue of great import to Massachusetts hospitals. Senator Tom Coburn and Senator Claire McCaskill have offered legislation in the U.S. Senate that may prove very costly to our hospitals. Coburn estimates that Massachusetts hospitals receive a benefit of $367 million annually from a special provision in the Affordable Care Act that only benefits Massachusetts Massachusetts hospitals. He and Senator McCaskill would like to do away with that provision. From the press release by Senator Coburn:

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Sens. Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO) introduced a bill, S.183, that would sunset Section 3141 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). The provision adjusted the calculation of a hospital wage index used to make payments under the Medicare program. Unfortunately, the provision has the net effect of reducing Medicare reimbursements for hospitals in every state except for Massachusetts. Sens. Coburn and McCaskill’s bill would eliminate this gimmick by sunsetting the provision, ending the favoring of hospitals in one state at the expense of all the other states’ hospitals.

“It is unfair to manipulate the Medicare payment system to benefit one state’s hospitals at the expense of all other states’ hospitals,” said Dr. Coburn. “This policy is effectively a payment earmark inserted in a law without the American people’s knowledge or consent. No state should have a special exemption while others bear the costs for a provision designed to advance a special interest. This legislation would sunset this unjust provision and allow all hospitals in all states to be treated equally under the law.”

“This provision unfairly benefits some states to the disadvantage of others, like Missouri—it’s inefficient, and I’m happy to work in a bipartisan way to improve the health care reform law by repealing the provision,” McCaskill said. “I’ve consistently said that, whether you supported or opposed the Affordable Care Act, we can work together to keep improving and strengthening it as it’s implemented.”

Recently, the National Rural Health Association and 20 state hospital associations wrote the President about the “adverse impact” Section 3141 of PPACA is having. They noted this provision of law “permitted the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to manipulate the federal Medicare program, reaping an estimated $367 million annually from the other 49 states – and unfairly favoring one state’s hospitals and Medicare beneficiaries to the detriment of others.” The association warned that “if left uncorrected, hospitals in 49 states will experience reduced funding of more than $3.5 billion over the next ten years as a direct result of this manipulation.”

Senator-Designate Cowan will not be coasting on the job, as he has been “greeted” warmly by Senator Coburn. Right to work. Congratulations to Mo Cowan on his appointment. Massachusetts is pulling for you.

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