HARRISBURG – Included in Gov. Tom Wolf’s multi-billion dollar cuts to the state budget he signed in December was $5.67 million to help fund the state’s 14 critical access hospitals, and Rep. Matt Baker (Tioga/Bradford/Potter), chairman of the House Health Committee, has introduced legislation to restore this vital funding.
“There is no reason why the governor would choose to cut dollars to support hospitals dedicated to providing health care to those residents in rural areas of state who have limited care options, other than to use these institutions as leverage to gain the spike in tax increases that he has been demanding since last March,” said Baker. “I think it is reprehensible to use our health care system in such a fashion. The health and safety of the residents of this Commonwealth are our top priority and his manipulation of the budget only hurts those in our state who are most vulnerable.”
Critical access hospitals, such as Troy Community Hospital in Bradford County and Charles Cole Hospital in Potter County among others, are defined under federal law as rural critical access hospitals, located at least 35 miles from another hospital, have an average daily census of fewer than 25 patients and participate in the Medicare program. There are currently 14 critical access hospitals thoughout the state.
These hospitals are reimbursed by Medicare on a “reasonable cost basis” for services. Baker’s legislation would require the Commonwealth’s Medical Assistance program to reimburse these hospitals on the same basis.
Baker noted that since critical access hospitals are the only option for the communities they serve, they cannot turn away patients and, therefore, end up with a disproportionate share of uninsured or Medicaid insurance patients. If these hospitals fail, the entire community’s health would be in jeopardy.
House Bill 1460, as it passed the General Assembly and was presented to the governor, provided these critical access hospitals with a $1.8 million increase over the 2014-15 budget in order to direct funding to two additional facilities.
Baker said the funding increase represented an important investment for these institutions and the people they support each day. Unfortunately, the governor’s veto left these hospitals with no support from the state.
“I am hopeful to gain the support from my colleagues in the House and Senate to have this funding restored and quickly driven out to these important facilities,” said Baker. “The budget impasse has been both frustrating and challenging, but we need to set our differences aside and make sure our hospitals have the funding needed to continue delivering quality care to patients in need.”