Hospital group HAP weighs in on Pa. budget

Pittsburgh Business Times
http://www.bizjournals.com

The Hospital & Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania, following passage of the 2008-2009 Pennsylvania state budget, said several important health-care measures remain unresolved.

The Harrisburg hospital trade group supported components of the budget that included state and federal funding to support Pennsylvania’s burn centers, hospital obstetrics and neonatal services, and rural “critical access” hospitals. HAP said the budget also includes funding for inpatient and outpatient disproportionate share payments and for the community access fund (both to benefit hospitals that care for high volumes of uninsured patients), medical education, and improvements in Pennsylvania’s hospital inpatient fee-for-service program.

“Overall, this is welcome news for patients, communities, and hospitals,” said Carolyn F. Scanlan, president and CEO of HAP. Scanlan added that “all patients will benefit from improved Medicaid payments that support hospital inpatient and outpatient services and the medical education that is vital to preserving long-term access to physician and hospital care in Pennsylvania.”

Scanlan also noted that action is still needed in regard to health insurance coverage reform, Mcare abatement and Mcare fund retirement, and reauthorization of the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council.

All of the programs or proposals have become snarled in Harrisburg politics.

Mcare is the state’s mandatory malpractice insurance program for health-care providers. For the past five years, during a time when premiums for doctors in Pennsylvania skyrocketed, the state has used a portion of its cigarette tax to cover the Mcare fees for physicians in high-risk specialties like orthopedic surgery and obstetrics and half the fee for other doctors.

Gov. Ed Rendell has stated he will not take up extended the Mcare abatement, and a plan for retiring the Mcare fund altogether, until legislators address his health-care insurance reform plan.

That plan passed the state House early this year, but not the Republican-controlled Senate , which has proposed its own alternatives. Senators have also passed legislation that links the and reauthorization of the PHC4 with legislation extending the Mcare abatement program. PHC4 is an independent state agency that collect and analyzes health-care data to improve the quality of care provided to state residents.

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