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For ECMC, other public hospitals, a potential loss of funding looms

WASHINGTON -- Hospitals such as Erie County Medical Center face a more immediate funding threat than the new Republican effort to repeal and replace Obamacare.

Funding is set to expire Sept. 30 for the federal government's program to pay more to hospitals who take a disproportionate share of Medicaid patients -- such as ECMC.

If Congress allows that to happen, publicly run hospitals and others that serve disadvantaged communities could lose upwards of $1.1 billion in funding, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Tuesday.

"We are 11 days away from what really would be a disastrous cut in Medicaid," the governor said.

Noting that "disproportionate share" hospitals in the state would lose a third of the federal funding they were expecting to care for the poor, Cuomo added: "This would decimate the public and safety net hospitals in New York."

The Healthcare Association of New York said it expects dire ramifications in such hospitals if Congress doesn't act to cancel a planned funding cut.

In a letter to the state's congressional delegation, the Healthcare Association called the disproportionate share payments "a lifeline to safety net hospitals, enabling these facilities to fulfill their mission to care for the uninsured and underinsured in their communities."

The payments have been in question before, but Congress has always allocated last-minute funding to keep them going.

It's unclear, though, whether Congress will extend the payments again before the deadline.

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