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April 28, 2010 News Headlines

HANYS Holds Federal Briefing and Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C.

More than 50 members from across the state participated in HANYS’ 2010 Federal Briefing and Congressional Advocacy Day, held yesterday and today in Washington, D.C., in conjunction with the American Hospital Association’s (AHA) Annual Membership Meeting. Members participated in a briefing on federal advocacy issues and met with their members of Congress to urge them to discuss implementation of health care reform and HANYS’ other legislative and regulatory priorities. Members of the New York State Congressional Delegation were asked to urge the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to reject the 2.9% “behavorial offset” in the federal fiscal year 2011 inpatient hospital payment rule, to ensure New York’s Federal Medicaid Assistance Percentage under the federal economic stimulus law is extended, to urge CMS to improve the flexibility in the health information technology “meaningful use” regulations, and pass a longer term fix to the pending 21% Medicare physician fee schedule cut.

On health care reform, the Delegation was asked to look for opportunities to modify parts of the law that needed improvement, such as the hospital readmissions policy, and monitor the significant impact of the federal health reform law’s Medicare and Medicaid reductions on New York’s hospitals and continuing care providers.

HANYS’ Federal Briefing covered the federal budget, health care reform, and health information technology issues. In his presentation at the briefing, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) demonstrated his deep understanding of the challenges of New York health care institutions, and his firm commitment to work together to overcome them. Also addressing the briefing were Tom Nickels, AHA Senior Vice President, Federal Relations, and Maya MacGuineas, President of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget at the New American Foundation.

AHA, in partnership with HANYS, awarded Betsy Wright, President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), WCA Hospital in Jamestown, with the AHA Grassroots Champion Award. She was honored at the fifth annual “Breakfast of Grassroots Champions.” Ms. Wright was joined at the breakfast by several members of the WCA Board of Trustees.

“The theme of the AHA meeting was Dedicated to Excellence--Committed to Communities and Ms. Wright is being recognized for both her exceptional leadership in generating grassroots and community activity and dedication to the hospital’s mission,” said HANYS’ President Daniel Sisto.

“We depend upon strong voices like Betsy’s to help tell the story of hospitals as cornerstones of the communities they serve,” said Rich Umbdenstock, AHA President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO). “This award is a small token of our appreciation for her hard work and dedication to improving health and health care in America.”

Speakers at the AHA Annual Membership Meeting included Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX). Two HANYS members serve on the AHA Board: Chandler Ralph, President and CEO of Adirondack Medical Center and Steve Goldstein, President, Strong Memorial and Highland Hospitals. Materials from HANYS’ Briefing and Advocacy Day are available to members online. Contact: Susan Van Meter

Governor Proposes Additional $620 Million in Budget Savings

Governor David Paterson yesterday proposed an additional $620 million in savings actions to address the increased state budget deficit, which has grown since the release of his “21-day” amendments and is currently projected at $9.2 billion.

New proposed spending reductions and revenue actions include:

  • Reconciling the 2009 Medicaid Trend Factor. Current law provides the state with a process to reconcile projected Medicaid trend factor (inflationary) estimates with the actual trend factor for a particular year. Based on a previous budget, statute required the trend factor for the first quarter of calendar year 2009 to be reduced by one percent. The initial trend factor projection was 2.1%, when factoring in the statutory one percent reduction. However, the Medicaid trend factor was recently finalized for 2009 at negative 0.4%. When factoring in the one percent reduction, the actual trend factor is negative 1.4% for the first three months of 2009. State savings are achieved by reconciling the actual with the projected trend factor. HANYS will provide members more details.
  • Additional Federal Medicaid Funding. The proposal recognizes an additional $25 million in state savings attributed to the application of enhanced Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) to Medicare Part D cost-sharing payments made by the state to the federal government.
  • Eliminating Timothy’s Law Subsidy. The proposal eliminates the remaining subsidy for Timothy’s Law, which is paid directly to insurance companies. This would achieve $40 million in state savings for this year and $50 million next year.
  • Reducing Funding for Various Mental Health and Substance Abuse Programs. The proposal would cut Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) community treatment programs by $3 million annually, specifically not-for-profit-operated chemical dependence and problem gambling outpatient treatment programs. Funding would be reduced for Office of Mental Health (OMH) adult services programs by $3 million annually. OMH Personalized Recovery Oriented Services (PROS) funding would also be reduced by $2 million annually to reflect the conversion of Continuing Day Treatment programs to PROS.
  • Increasing the Tobacco Tax. The proposal increases the tax on chewing tobacco, pipe tobacco, and rolling tobacco from 46% of wholesale price to 90% of wholesale price. The tax on snuff would be raised from $0.90 per ounce to $2.00 per ounce. Little cigars would be taxed, consistent with the proposed cigarette excise tax of $3.75 per pack, rather than the current rate of 46% of wholesale price.

The Governor is asking the Legislature to put state workers on furlough without pay for one day a week until the state budget is finalized. The furlough would affect about 100,000 workers, equal to 70% of the state workforce, and each day of furlough would generate about $30 million in state savings. Health and safety workers would be exempt.

The Governor is expected to send his proposal to the Legislature as a separate bill, but he could place it in a future government spending extender bill. The Governor is asking the Legislature to work five-day weeks until a budget agreement is finalized.

While it remains unclear when a final budget agreement for the 2010-2011 state fiscal year will be reached, HANYS encourages members to contact their state legislators and ask them to protect health care services by rejecting the Governor’s proposed provider taxes and cuts. Health care providers have already sustained more than their fair share of budget cuts and taxes. Contact: Nicholas Henley

Applications Due April 30 for Pioneer Hospital Study of Frontline Workers

Applications are now being accepted from hospitals in New York to become part of a national study of “pioneer” employers whose policies and practices have improved the quality of life for their frontline workers and created a measurable enhancement of the organization’s bottom line.

Applications are due April 30.

HANYS is collaborating with Washington State Hospital Association’s Health Work Force Institute, Hitachi Foundation, University of North Carolina Institute on Aging, California Hospital Association, and Metropolitan Chicago Healthcare Council in this national study to identify and promote hospital programs that help frontline workers develop careers in health care.

The project will produce 15 to 20 case studies of “pioneer employer” hospitals from across the country (including four to five hospitals from New York State). The case studies will include both quantitative and qualitative analyses of measurable return and will be widely distributed across the United States. Contact: Cindy Levernois

HTNYS and WNYHA to Offer Trustee Program on Health Reform

On May 12, Healthcare Trustees of New York State (HTNYS) and Western New York Healthcare Association (WNYHA) will update trustees on the federal health reform law and help prepare them for future strategic decisions related to reform. Trustees and hospital leaders are encouraged to attend the program, which begins at 4 p.m. at the Orchard Park Country Club. This complimentary program will offer great information to trustees.

Please register online. For registration assistance, contact Joan Stewart, Registration Coordinator, at jstewart@hanys.org or at (518) 431-7990. Contact: Sue Ellen Wagner

Tri-County Memorial Hospital to Be Relocated

TLC Health Network officials have partnered with federal, state, and local officials to reach a long-awaited agreement to relocate and rebuild Tri-County Memorial Hospital, which was evacuated on August 10, 2009 as a result of the devastating floods last summer. The hospital and many critical services had either been relocated to temporary locations or closed since that time. TLC intends to build a smaller facility that will include an emergency department and other health related functions previously provided from the Memorial Drive campus in Gowanda.

Although the details and location of a new facility are not yet determined, TLC Health expects funding of approximately $18.5 million to rebuild the hospital on a new site outside of the flood plain, and to properly remove and dispose of the old facility. In addition, this funding will support the reestablishment of inpatient chemical dependency services at the Lake Shore Hospital campus. In the coming weeks plans will be finalized to establish new temporary locations for expanded hospital and clinic services in Gowanda and Forestville, which will also be made possible through Federal Emergency Management Agency projects.

“After months of anguish over the loss of Tri-County Memorial Hospital, this is truly the heartening news the community and our organization have been anxiously awaiting,” said Jonathan I. Lawrence, President and CEO of Lake Erie Regional Health System of New York, the parent corporation of TLC Health Network and Tri-County Memorial Hospital. He added, “We extend our heartfelt thanks and congratulations to everyone throughout the community who has written letters, signed petitions and have expressed their support for our efforts to restore critical health services to the region.”