Trump Administration Slashes Medicare/Medicaid Payments. Local Hospital Is Targeted

The Peninsula Daily News (PDN) is reporting that the Trump Administration, against the wishes of hundreds of letters and testimony against it, is slashing Medicare and Medicaid reimbursal rates to clinics more than 250ft away from a central hospital. The new rule is called the “CY (for Calendar Year) 2019 Medicare Hospital Outpatient Prospective Payment System (OPPS) and Ambulatory Surgical Center (ASC) Payment System”

The rule announcement from July is found at

https://www.cms.gov/newsroom/press-releases/cms-empowers-patients-and-ensures-site-neutral-payment-proposed-rule

and the October 30th update is found here:

https://www.cms.gov/newsroom/fact-sheets/cms-finalizes-hospital-outpatient-and-ambulatory-surgical-center-policy-and-payment-changes

The goal of the proposed rule was to eliminate patient clinic visits to hospital clinics that charge more than non hospital clinics. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) claims in it’s press release that, “Currently, CMS often pays more for the same type of clinic visit in the hospital outpatient setting than in the physician office setting.” They offer no proof to that claim.

The most affected facility for this on the Olympic Peninsula is Olympic Medical Center’s (OMC) offsite clinics in Sequim. Ironically the clinics serve a population that voted for President Trump in the last election and they will, if this rule is not overturned via legislation, be the most effected by it. The chart at the link below shows how various precincts voted in 2016.

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/upshot/election-2016-voting-precinct-maps.html#8.27/47.920/-122.715

The PDN is reporting that payments may be slashed up to 60%, which would apparently make these clinics financially nonviable. Medicare and Medicaid payments today are so lean that many physicians do not take new Medicaid/Medicare patients because they cannot survive on the reimbursal rates.

The outcome of this will be that seniors and the poor will have to travel further for medical care, and that some hospitals, like OMC may be forced to close their remote facilities and possibly even put their main hospitals in financial jeopardy. Hospital closings in the last decade in rural areas have reached new highs, leading to rural areas often being the most under-served areas for healthcare in the country. Forbes magazine, in 2017, had an article that researched the issue and found that “Approximately 2300 rural hospitals are in the United States. Of those, 81 have closed since 2010.” Forbes went on to show how President Trump’s proposed healthcare cuts were putting “673…at risk of closing”. The full story from Forbes is available at https://www.forbes.com/sites/bisnow/2017/07/26/obamacare-repeal-could-cripple-rural-hospitals-and-lead-to-more-closures/#6dbd6b4f42b8

It is not known how this will affect Jefferson Healthcare (JHC) as they have kept their clinics within the required 250 yard rule. They have worked around the issue by setting up their clinics in Quilcene and Port Ludlow in a different legal framework. They claim that they will be less affected.

There have been rumors from healthcare providers that other standalone clinics may be affected, those not attached to a hospital. We will track those as we hear from the community. Your comments and insights are welcome to be sent to albergstein@gmail.com

What is happening is an ongoing push to centralize healthcare in urban centers and reduce the costs. While healthcare costs are rising, much of these costs are centered in the last years of life. Our insistence on providing all out high cost medical support to terminally ill patients, for example, rather than focusing on expanded hospice care has led to a heavy weighing of costs to end of life medical intervention. From personal experience, I can say that in some locales there seems to not be honest dialogue between patient and provider about the likelihood of a successful outcome, leading to the patient not knowing that they are essentially terminally ill and wanting to continue, under the providers suggestions, with expensive treatment that will only likely extend life a few months.

Medical providers are also, due to litigation costs, often insisting on far more tests than necessary, driving up costs. There is no easy route out of that issue, as patient expectations are not often aligned with actual healthcare scenarios and outcomes. The inability to also properly judge physician history and ratings also make it hard for patients to know when some providers have a history of malpractice.

But the slashing of medicaid and medicare costs to OMC and other hospitals like it, is a cynical ploy by the Trump Administration and Congress to do a stealth attack on these services, one which was highlighted in an article last month.

Larry Kudlow, the director of the Trump White House’s National Economic Council, recently said he wants to take aim at “entitlements” as early as “next year.” A few months earlier, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said he wants to see policymakers bring the budget closer to balance by cutting “entitlements.” Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio), who currently chairs the National Republican Congressional Committee, made the same argument in August.

And now Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is making the identical pitch.

http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/mcconnell-eyes-cuts-medicare-social-security-address-deficit

This all comes after slashing taxes to the wealthiest Americans and corporations earlier in the year.

It is worth remembering that this administration and previous ones have spent approx. $170M a day for 16 years funding the war in Afghanistan. We have the money to fund Medicare and Medicaid at appropriate levels. It’s all about priorities.

Just last month, our legislators from both Clallam and Jefferson counties, including some of our county and hospital commissioners and executives, traveled to Washington D.C. and met with numerous staffers, both at the White House and Congress. Some of them, such as Republican Congresswoman Jamie Herrera Butler, was not in Washington and sent out a staffer who knew nothing of the issues.

It remains to be seen if our legislators can fix this problem in Congress next year. If you want to help ensure it gets done, vote Democratic on Tuesday November 6th. Putting Democrats at least in charge of the House will allow a real debate and bipartisan approach on how this all proceeds. Representative Kilmer, who is up for re-election, along with other Democratic Representatives have been fighting hard to protect rural hospitals. These politicians are not perfect. None of them will agree with all of us all the time. That’s just not how this representative democracy works. But these Democratic politicians in our district have a track record and to elect more Republicans and expect a different outcome seems unrealistic.

Otherwise these kind of cuts are going to continue to come at us, with the outcome being far worse healthcare options for all of us, no matter who you voted for in this election. This is not “making America great again.”

The final rule will appear in the November 13, 2015 Federal Register and can be downloaded from the Federal Register at: http://www.ofr.gov/inspection.aspx?AspxAutoDetectCookieSupport=1.

 

Bill would help hospital with its financial woes – The Daily World

Insufficient Medicaid reimbursals are helping sink rural hospitals. One of the hospitals this is meant to help is in Grays Harbor, another in Port Angeles.  Senator Van de Wege put it forward with hours just hours before the cutoff. It’s Senate Bill 6601.

OLYMPIA — A bill that would provide temporary funding to ease a financial crisis at Grays Harbor Community Hospital and two other financially struggling hospitals in the state was introduced Tuesday, just hours ahead of the bill cutoff for financial measures.

https://www.thedailyworld.com/news/bill-would-help-hospital-with-its-financial-woes/

Medicare proposal bad news for OMC, says CEO – PDN

So here comes the first of many negative changes to the health care from the Republican dominated Congress. There is still a chance this won’t be implemented, but don’t bet on it. Americans have put these people into office, they have taken away the government’s ability to negotiate drug prices and now are going to take away the funds needed to protect the most helpless of us from losing their medications.

PORT ANGELES — In the first six months of 2017, Olympic Medical Center reported a $1.1 million loss in revenue, and it could face more financial setbacks next year if Medicare weakens a discount drug program, Chief Executive Officer Eric Lewis said.

You may need to sign up for a subscription to read this, but please do. Support your local newspaper or you may find it gone!

http://www.peninsuladailynews.com/news/medicare-proposal-bad-news-for-omc-says-ceo/

Medicaid is for everyone – New York Times

The war on the poor in America continues. As the Republicans work in secrecy to come up with a healthcare bill to serve someone other than the average American,  The New York Times ponders the destruction of Medicaid, high on the Republicans list. If ever there was a rich vs. poor issue, this is it. If this gets implemented as the Republicans and Trump want, it will have disastrous consequences for Jefferson and Clallam Counties. Both of them have high levels of both Medicaid and Medicare beneficiaries and our hospitals budgets are based on those reimbursals being available. It is the calm before the storm here.

Cantwell to meet with Kitsap health care providers and Medicaid patients – Kitsap Daily News

The sad but true news behind this is that 40% of Kitsap voters went for Trump in the last election. Also, as the article goes on to state, 20,000 people in Kitsap county are on Medicaid. An additional 24,000 are covered on both Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Many if not most are likely to lose their coverage under the proposed, “TrumpCare”, also known as Paul Ryan’s plan. This is the Republican’s “plan”. To give poor people “tax credits” that do them no good (due to their status as eligible for Medicaid, many don’t make enough to pay federal income taxes folks, and  if they do work, use EZ1040 forms that don’t itemize). Then throw them off the federal government and put the load on the State to fund. Reminds me of an old song, “Take a load of Fanny, and you put the load right on me.”

BREMERTON – U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) will meet with Kitsap-area health care providers, elected officials, tribal health leaders, and Medicaid patients on March 11.

The meeting will begin at 12:30 p.m., at the Harrison Medical Center first floor auditorium, 2520 Cherry Ave., Bremerton. Residents wishing to attend should RSVP to Bryan Watt at bryan_watt@cantwell.senate.gov or 202-224-8277.

Read the rest of the story at:

http://www.kitsapdailynews.com/news/cantwell-to-meet-with-kitsap-health-care-providers-and-medicaid-patients/

Improved access to health care must be assured for patients – Yakima Herald

Very good article on the value of community health centers under Medicaid. Discussing the issue surrounding Yakima, and also, here on the Peninsula.

Community health centers like Yakima Neighborhood Health Services have worked to solve the national challenge of access to care with innovative solutions at the local level. Health centers like ours save, on average, $2,371 (or 24 percent) in total spending per Medicaid patient when compared to other providers, according to a recent multistate study published in the American Journal of Public Health.

http://www.yakimaherald.com/opinion/editorials/guest_editorials/improved-access-to-health-care-must-be-assured-for-patients/article_186cd4ba-efd2-11e6-aa01-fbe7aaf1132f.html