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Friday, June 07, 2019

HHS must accept public comment before modifying reimbursement
Hospitals that serve higher numbers of low-income patients could recoup a significant amount of money after a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court this week. In a 7-1 decision, the court determined that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services failed by not allowing public comment when it changed the way it calculates payments designed to offset the costs of treating uninsured and underinsured patients. "Under this new statute, the court said you do have to go through the public comment process. Hospitals should be able to make comments, and those should be considered before [the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services] makes a rule going forward," argues Mike Shaver, of the Erlanger Medical Center . Not only are low-income patients less able to afford their hospital visits, they're more likely to delay preventive care and arrive at the hospital sicker, and therefore require more expensive treatment. The changes to how those payments are calculated resulted in $3 billion to $4 billion in estimated losses to qualifying hospitals between 2005 and 2013, the court said, adding that public comment may have prevented those losses. Yolanda James, spokeswoman for the Tennessee Hospital Association, said that the impact of the court's decision on Tennessee's hospitals is "unknown at this early stage," but "there is potential for a positive benefit to our state's hospitals."

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