Senator Mark Begich today (Tuesday) introduced an amendment to the Health Care legislation now before Congress that would expand a demonstration program offering support to small hospitals.
For the past five years, the Rural Community Hospital Demonstration Project has been assisting fifteen hospitals nationally – three of them in Alaska. The Begich amendment would extend the program for five more years and expand it to thirty small hospitals around the country.
Look at what we’re doing that creating more efficient, more innovation, better cost containment. How do we improve on that. And this has clearly proven to be a successful program –extending community health, community hospital demonstration project. So this is to move it to a higher level of utilization. We believe this will show five years from now why we need to continue this and expand it even further – especially as it’s designed for rural community hospitals.
The Alaska hospitals currently in the system are Juneau’s Bartlett Regional Hospital, Central Peninsula Hospital in Soldotna and Mount Edgecumbe Hospital in Sitka.
Garth Hamblin is the Chief Financial Officer for Bartlett Hospital. He says the program has provided about six hundred thousand dollars a year – which is going toward stabilizing the cost of recent expansion and renovation there – and is a significant help for the facility. He says there are other programs that assist small hospitals with specific needs, but this one is designed for medium sized facilities.
The demonstration’s designed to provides some relief for those of us who aren’t quite small enough for that critical access designation but still have relatively low volumes. And so the program provides additional medicare reimbursement for medicare in-patients but not for out-patients. So it’s been successful.
The Begich amendment is part of a larger legislative package of eleven amendments introduced by freshmen Democrats. Begich says he expects completed action on the entire health care legislation within the next ten days.