MENOMONIE, Wis. (WEAU) - Several area hospitals could soon lose millions of dollars or even close if a new proposal passes in Congress.
The idea would cut reimbursements to hospitals for Medicare.
“This is perhaps a short-sighted attempt to find a Band-Aid and what we really need is more fundamental reimbursement reform,” Mayo Clinic Health System of Menomonie Vice Chief Medical Officer Hank Simpson said.
The Menomonie Critical Access Hospital has 25 beds, holding patients for four days or less on average. It's one of 58 of its kind, designed to provide healthcare access to rural areas, but a new proposal could put 42 of them at risk of closing.
“Although these hospitals in many rural areas would want to continue to serve their community and their Medicare patients, they may actually end up closing their doors. So the service would simply no longer exist,” Simpson said.
The proposal by the Office of the Inspector General would end special reimbursement for Medicare for critical access, potentially cutting millions from more than 800 hospitals nationwide.
“That would take them from sort of a break-even position on Medicare patients to a significant loss on those patients.”
“It would definitely limit our ability to invest in the care of our patients in the infrastructure that helps us do good things for our community,” he said.
Simpson said the change would affect more than just patients.
“For family members, if a loved one is hospitalized, they're traveling much farther. This is the population that frankly often traveling distances is difficult for them.”
“Critical Access Hospitals are the economic backbone of most of those communities. So it has implications not only for the care of patients, but for the vitality of rural communities as well.”
Simpson said the proposal would have to be presented and passed by Congress to be put into place.
Other hospitals that would be affected include Osseo, Whitehall, Neillsville, Bloomer and Black River Falls.