Monday, January 19, 2015

Congress is expected to renew two programs that subsidize rural hospitals

Federal programs that subsidize small and Medicare-dependent rural hospitals are scheduled to expire April 1 but will be extended as part of bipartisan legislation pending in Congress, Sen. Charles Schumer of New York told the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.

The Low Volume Hospital (LVH) and Medicare-Dependent Hospital (MDH) programs have been repeatedly renewed, and are "expected to be linked to must-pass legislation reimbursing physicians for treating Medicare patients," Brian Tumulty reports. About 600 hospitals get subsidies from the LVH program and 177 get help from the MDH progam.

"Schumer said the renewals have been short term because providing long-term financing would be so expensive," Tumulty reports. "It's one of the legacies of the 1997 Balanced Budget Act, which called for federal budget savings by limiting Medicare payments to the overall economy's rate of growth. It was named the Sustainable Growth Initiative at the time, but the formula hasn't been sustainable in the real world because health care costs have increased faster than the rest of the economy."

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