I feel compelled to respond to the Nov. 29 article "Lawmakers fund home state hospitals" (p. 2). Apparently the writers were less interested in facts and more interested in attempting to portray legitimate legislative corrective action as "pork." If they had dug beneath the surface, they would have found a more meaningful story about how one hospital was reclassified into a higher-paying urban area to the detriment of five neighbors.
The story involves one eastern Pennsylvania hospital, which sought reclassification into the Philadelphia area and received greater reimbursement to the tune of $6.9 million. Medicare financed the facility's increased reimbursement by removing $8 million in payments from five neighboring hospitals. They were forced to absorb a cumulative loss in Medicare payments greater than their entire operating margins for the previous year.
Why does Medicare continue to reward one hospital for spending more money that its peers-and at the expense of more cost-effective institutions? Only an expert in Medicare's arcane reimbursement protocol could explain how this happened. But it's clear that this injustice was never intended by those who crafted the Medicare code.
With the assistance of local congressional representatives and senators, the five area hospitals were restored to their previous reimbursement levels. They received not one penny more than they were previously entitled to. They were not reclassified as urban hospitals, because they have always had that classification.
What was corrected was a grievous error in the system, and we appreciate the willingness of our local representatives to address this matter in a fair and equitable manner.
Palmerton (Pa.) Hospital