Policy

Cleveland’s University Hospitals gets a ‘rifle shot,’ other Ohio hospitals take aim

Cleveland’s University Hospitals has another chance to get a special Medicare exemption for its new, free-standing cancer center opening two years from now. But the concept continues to receive fierce opposition from other Ohio hospitals.

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Cleveland’s University Hospitals has another chance to get a special Medicare exemption for its new, free-standing cancer center opening two years from now.

An amendment in health-care reform legislation would provide the coveted Medicare reimbursement exemption for UH — as well as for three other hospitals across the country, according to The New York Times. The four health systems thought they were going to get the exemption last year. But UH, at least, ran into statewide opposition to the benefit.

It turns out that this year’s attempt — using an narrow financial amendment known as a “rifle shot,” according to the Times — has just as much opposition as the previous one.

Cleveland Clinic and MetroHealth Medical Center think that all Cleveland hospitals should get the same benefit, according to The Plain Dealer. And the Columbus Dispatch reports that, just like last year, the Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital at Ohio State University is concerned, too. The James receives the benefit that UH wants, but officials there fear UH’s benefit may be better than the one The James receives.

“What we see as a big deal is maintaining the level playing field,” Richard Stoddard, associate vice president of governmental affairs for Ohio State, told The Dispatch. “If that can be worked out, we are happy. We are still tracking it.”

The exemption, which requires Congressional approval, removes limits on Medicare reimbursements and could amount to several millions dollars annually for UH. Hospitals get these exemptions because the costs of running these certified cancer centers are higher than other facilities. In the past, UH officials and lawmakers said the exemption would be a way to attract talent and support medical breakthroughs in cancer research.

Only 11 hospitals have the designation, so it’s unlikely three Cleveland institutions could all win the same benefit. It’s also unlikely they’re all eligible for it, anyway.

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Now, along with the local opposition, UH may have to battle the perception that the amendment is pure pork-barrel politics. The Times report suggests this is the case, and points out that the Nevada hospital doesn’t have the credentials that match the other hospitals that receive the Medicare exemption.

As of Monday there were 546 amendments to the bill proposed by Sen. Max Baucus with more to come. Whether the specific amendment benefiting UH remains — or winds up inserted in other legislation anytime in the next two years — is anyone’s guess.