Area Hospitals Pleased with Legislators

December 10, 2003
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GRAND RAPIDS — As President Bush signed the Medicare overhaul into law, the West Michigan Medicare Equity Coalition thanked a group of local congressmen for restoring Medicare payment equity in the region.

Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Holland, Rep. Vern Ehlers, R-Grand Rapids, and Rep. Dave Camp, R-Midlandf, helped develop a process that will alleviate artificially low Medicare reimbursement rates due to the Area Wage Index.

The AWI provision directs the Department of Health and Human Services to establish a one-time process for resolving unique AWI reimbursement issues.

“For several years West Michigan hospitals have endured inadequate Medicare payments,” said Roger Spoelman, president and CEO of Mercy General Health Partners in Muskegon.

According to Spoelman, the AWI has been artificially low as a result of factors unrelated to today’s real wage and salary costs for providing care to West Michigan residents.

Because of the low wage index, hospitals in the region have received Medicare payments several percentage points below the national average.

He said that failure to address the low reimbursement rate could have a tangibly negative impact on West Michigan’s health care system.

“Thanks to the leadership efforts of Congressman Pete Hoekstra, our hospitals now have the opportunity to receive payments in line with the cost of high quality care that West Michigan hospitals provide,” Spoelman said.

Richard Breon, president and CEO of Spectrum Health, expressed his appreciation to Ehlers, for making sure that the reform legislation achieved equity for Grand Rapids hospitals.

John Rockwood, president and CEO of Munson Health Care, confirmed the importance of the newly enacted provision while citing the efforts of Camp. A portion of Munson Health Care’s Medicare payments is impacted by the Grand Rapids Area Wage Index.

The coalition also offered plaudits to Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow, Michigan’s senators, both Democrats, who worked with their GOP colleagues to make sure the provision remained in the bill’s Senate version.

The coalition includes nearly all West Michigan hospitals.    

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