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Chamber hears about hospital proposal

Staff writer

An idea Congress is considering to help reduce the federal deficit would pit hospitals and communities against each other if passed in its current form, St. Luke Hospital Chief Executive Officer Jeremy Armstrong told the Marion Chamber of Commerce on Friday.

The proposal that leaked from the deficit-cutting “super committee” would strip critical-access hospital designation from any hospital with another hospital within 15 miles. St. Luke and Hillsboro Community Hospital, which both are critical-access hospitals, are a little more than 10 miles apart.

Under the current proposal, both hospitals would lose their critical-access designation. That designation is important, because critical-access hospitals are reimbursed by Medicare at a rate based on the actual cost to provide care. Other hospitals receive a predetermined amount based on a patient’s diagnosis. Armstrong calculated that without the designation, St. Luke would lose more than $1 million of revenue.

“The critical-access hospital reimbursement is the lifeblood of rural hospitals,” Armstrong said.

The super committee’s proposal would affect 15 Kansas hospitals, Armstrong said, but Kansas is not represented on the super committee.

“We’re pretty removed from this process,” he said. “You are asking for an unfair share from the people and communities most in need.

If the minimum distance to retain the designation were reduced to 10 miles, St. Luke and HCH would be safe by a fraction of a mile.

Todd Heitschmidt of Central National Bank asked whether there have been any discussions between the hospitals about a way for one to retain its designation. Armstrong said the focus was still on lobbying against the proposal.

Last modified Nov. 24, 2011

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