Senators Jay Rockefeller and Joe Manchin, and Congressman David McKinley today announced that they introduced bills in the Senate and House, respectively, that would make sure that the five hospitals in the Northern Panhandle get paid fairly so that they can compete with surrounding hospitals in Ohio. This bill would fix a Medicare payment disparity in which hospitals in the two different states share the same labor market, but receive different Medicare payments.
The bills would enable Camden-Clark Memorial Hospital in Parkersburg, Ohio Valley Medical Center in Wheeling, Reynolds Memorial Hospital in Glen Dale, St. Joseph's Hospital in Parkersburg, and Weirton Medical Center in Weirton to compete on the same level with neighboring hospitals in Ohio.
"Our hospitals in the Northern Panhandle are in a unique position where they compete with hospitals in Ohio rather than hospitals in other parts of West Virginia," said Rockefeller, Chairman of the Senate Finance Subcommittee on Health Care. "These hospitals employ more than 4,000 people and provide health care for tens of thousands more. They are a major source of jobs in the area, and provide health care services to people in need. We must make sure that our hospitals share a level playing field with Ohio's hospitals which are only a few miles away. That is not the case right now, but this legislation will change that course."
"Hospitals in West Virginia should receive the payments they are owed based on what is fair, given the services they provide and the economic realities of the areas in which they operate," said Manchin. "With health care costs rising, an aging population that is growing rapidly, and tight budgets all around, it is important that our hospitals have the necessary resources to pay their staffs and treat Medicare patients who are reliant on their services. I am proud to sponsor this commonsense measure that will support West Virginia hospitals that we rely on to provide critical jobs and essential health care services."
"There is nothing more critical than ensuring that simple fairness exists in our health care system," said McKinley. "West Virginia residents should not be penalized for where they call home and this bill will enable our citizens to access care at a comparable rate to those in surrounding states."
"The application of the Medicare wage index has unjustly harmed hospitals in northern West Virginia," said Jay Prager, CEO of Reynolds Memorial Hospital in Glen Dale. "For Reynolds Memorial Hospital, Medicare accounts for almost one-half of our revenues, and this issue directly affects our 425 employees, as well as thousands of patients from Marshall County who use this facility. To us, this is more than a Medicare reimbursement issue; it is an issue of fairness."
"In today's highly competitive health care labor market, it is important that hospitals within the same geographic area be able to compete on a level playing field," said Mike King, President and CEO of Camden Clark Medical Center. "Camden Clark Medical Center employs nearly 2,000 people in the Mid-Ohio Valley. On our Medicare patient volume, hospitals in Ohio have a $5 million advantage in payment from a federal program .this is patently unfair and creates undue hardship on our hospital. Resolution of this inequity is of critical importance to our institution in order to attract and, more importantly, retain highly qualified and professional staff."
Currently, the Northern Panhandle and Ohio hospitals exist in the same labor market where they compete against each other, but the Medicare payment for labor is higher in Ohio, which helps recruit and retain workers. In West Virginia's case, the state's geography puts some of its hospitals at a disadvantage because they share the same labor market as certain Ohio hospitals, but the West Virginia hospitals receive lower Medicare payments. If these West Virginia hospitals were located just two miles west in Ohio, they would receive about $8.5 million more in Medicare payments.
Rockefeller and McKinley introduced companion bills in the Senate and House, respectively, and were pleased to have Manchin lend his strong support as an original cosponsor.
These bills would level the playing field for hospitals in the Northern Panhandle by making the Medicare payments for labor for hospitals in the same markets the same, even if that market covers multiple states. Therefore, hospitals in the same market could compete in a fair manner. The bills would not add to the deficit.