(07/05/2012)
By Bob Weaver

Eighteen of West Virginia's Critical Access Hospitals, mostly in rural areas, could be losing $5.5 million a year in reimbursements, but the cut could be getting a reprieve.

The change was putting some hospitals at risk.

Steve Whited, CEO of Minnie Hamilton Health System in Grantsville, says a new agreement will not disallow the provider taxes that support Minnie Hamilton and other rural facilities.

"The Critical Access Hospitals of WV along with the WV Hospital Association will continue to work on our concerns and issues," Whited said.

"We can breathe a little sigh of relief, but need to be cautious as we don't lose sight of this issue. I am very pleased that the entire congressional delegation from WV banned together and met with and addressed this head on," he said.

These are rural hospitals with 25 or fewer beds, including Minnie Hamilton, Montgomery General, Roane General, Boone Memorial, Braxton County Memorial, among others.

A recent administrative decision by officials in Washington changed how the federal government plans to pay small rural hospitals for the care they give to Medicare patients.

Medicare insures about 380,000 West Virginia seniors.

Because the small hospitals have slim operating margins, the new burden could limit West Virginians' access to critical health care.

The state's congressional delegation has gone to bat to halt the cut.

Federal officials are now saying they are cautiously optimistic that a solution has been reached.

Otherwise, rural hospitals in the state will be seriously challenged.

See related stories:

CRITICAL TIMES FACING MINNIE HAMILTON HEALTH SYSTEM - Changes Could Be Devastating For Community

WV'S CRITICAL ACCESS HOSPITALS FACING $5.5 MILLION LOSS - Minnie Hamilton Hit By Change


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