12.07.09

Whitehouse Introduces Amendments to Increase Funding for Local Hospitals

Measure Would Benefit Bradley Hospital and Women & Infants Hospital

Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) has filed two amendments to the Senate's health care reform bill, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, to help a pair of local hospitals get their fair share of federal funding designated for teaching hospitals.

"Teaching hospitals offer new doctors invaluable experience working with patients, and the federal government has long recognized that additional funding helps make these residency programs possible," said Whitehouse.

Most teaching hospitals are currently funded by federal Medicare graduate medical education (GME) payments, which cover expenses of educating residents. However, specialty hospitals such as Bradley and Women & Infants which focus on children's psychiatry and women's health, respectively, are often inadequately funded due to their low level of Medicare patients. Some children's hospitals receive federal funds through a separate pool called the Children's Hospitals Graduate Medical Education Payment Program (CHGME), but Bradley is currently deemed to be a "psychiatric" hospital, and is thus ineligible.

The first of Whitehouse's amendments, modeled after his Children's Hospitals Education Equity Act introduced earlier this year, would expand the definition of a "children's hospital" to include "a freestanding psychiatric hospital with 90 percent or more inpatients under the age of 18, that has its own Medicare provider number as of December 6, 1999, and that has an accredited residency program." While specific appropriations for the CHGME fund vary from year to year, Bradley has estimated that if it had been eligible for these payments in Fiscal Year 2008, it could have received as much as $390,000 in additional funds.

The second of Whitehouse's amendments, modeled after his Women's Hospitals Education Equity Act introduced earlier this year, would establish a $12 million fund to help women's hospitals around the country pay for GME programs. In order to target resources directly at those hospitals, such as Women & Infants, that currently receive inadequate GME funding because of their small Medicare populations, eligibility for the new fund will be limited to hospitals where fewer than 4% of total discharges were Medicare fee-for-service patients, and where at least 3,000 births occurred annually.

"It is essential that these facilities receive the funding necessary to train future doctors and ensure we can meet America's growing demand for quality medical care," said Whitehouse.

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