Friday, November 19, 1999
Medicare bill aids hospitals
Boehner gets $2.6 million for Butler facilities
BY TIM BONFIELD
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Five Butler County hospitals stand to share about $2.6million a year from an 11th-hour change in the federal budget, approved Thursday by the House.
Rep. John Boehner, R-West Chester, arranged for an adjustment to the $215 billion Medicare budget that specifically benefits Butler County hospitals. If approved by the Senate, the change would be part of the overdue federal budget for fiscal 2000, which began Oct. 1.
We're very excited, said Sister Marjorie Bosse, a vice president of the Catholic Healthcare Partners group, which includes Mercy Hamilton and Mercy Fairfield.
As Butler County hospitals try to maintain quality like everyone else, we can't afford to pay less than Cincinnati hospitals for the best staff. Yet, we were being paid less by Medicare, Sister Bosse said.
Butler County has five hospitals: Middletown Regional, Fort Hamilton, Mercy Hamilton, Mercy Fairfield and McCullough-Hyde Memorial.
Medicare pays hospitals ac cording to a formula based in part on a county-by-county wage index. The Butler County wage index has been lower than the Hamilton County index, even though Greater Cincinnati hospitals compete directly for patients and employees.
Since 1993, Medicare has been willing to adjust rates in many suburban counties if they can show they are parts of larger metropolitan areas such as Clermont and Warren counties in Ohio and Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties in Northern Ken tucky.
However, Butler County has been considered part of the Hamilton-Middletown metropolitan statistical area, not the Cincinnati SMSA. After Medicare refused to adjust the rates for the second straight year, Rep. Boehner stepped in.
The costs aren't that different for Hamilton County and Butler County, and for that matter, Montgomery County. They're all competing for the same professional staff, Rep. Boehner said. But the Butler County hospitals were getting lower reimbursement for the same procedures you can get in Hamilton County.
Overall, the Butler County hospitals would gain about $2.6million a year. Specific amounts vary according to how many Medicare patients each hospital treats.
Congressman Boehner did a super job. He really made an impact for Butler County on this, said James Kingsbury, senior executive officer of Fort Hamilton Hospital, which could gain $600,000.
Fort Hamilton recently announced a $1.6 million budget cut that included eliminating 35 jobs and spinning off its home health services. It's too late to reverse those decisions, Mr. Kingsbury said, but a $600,000 gain will make further cuts less likely.
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