LOWVILLE — Pending federal cuts to a Medicaid hospital funding program drew U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., to Lewis County General Hospital on Tuesday to speak out.
The Medicaid Disproportionate Share Hospital Program may be slashed by $4 billion on Oct. 1, which would result in a multi-million dollar decrease in funding for north country hospitals over the next ten years.
According to Sen. Schumer, the Disproportionate Share program was created to help hospitals, like Lewis County whose patients are primarily low-income and uninsured, have enough resources to provide a high level of care.
State leaders have signed a bipartisan letter to the administration urging a freeze on the plan.
“I am here today to say that we are going to do everything we can to get this undone, this cut” Sen. Schumer said, “Every New York congressman, every Democrat, every Republican, including your Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, signed that letter.”
The planned cuts were made by the current administration and only Congress voting to reverse the plan can put a stop to it, the senator said.
Two years ago, Congress blocked slated cuts to the same program.
Shrinking the program would cause a $6.1 million loss for the Lewis County facility, $5.5 million for Samaritan Medical Center and $4.3 million for Massena Memorial over the next 10 years according to Health Care Association of New York State’s estimates.
Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center and Gouverneur and Carthage Area Hospitals are each estimated to lose over $1 million over ten years while Canton-Potsdam and Clifton-Fine hospitals stand to lose $440,000 and $524,000, respectively,
For Lewis County General, as the county’s largest employer and the core center for healthcare in the county and beyond, those cuts could have a devastating impact on the area in terms of both jobs and healthcare, Schumer and hospital Chief Executive Officer Gerald Cayer both remarked.
“Any extra hit on the head can really hurt,” Sen. Schumer said with regard to the tight operating margins for rural hospitals.
At the end of the meeting, John L. Pope, president of the of the residents’ council at the Lewis County nursing home, asked what he and other supporters could do to help.
“As a citizen,” Mr. Pope said after the meeting, “I felt we needed to know, so I came down to the meeting. I felt we needed to know what we can do to change this.”
Congress will consider legislation to stop the decrease to the Disproportionate Share program “in the next couple of weeks,” the senator said
“There are lots of different things that need extending and this is at the top of the list,” Sen. Schumer said, “This is not just a New York issue, this is a national issue.”