$15 million grant approved for state if it can match it
Hawaii hospitals would receive $15 million in federal funds to help with rising costs and numbers of Medicaid and uninsured patients under legislation passed by the U.S. Senate.
Matching state funds would be needed to tap the money in the Medicare Improvement for Patients and Providers Act of 2008 if it becomes law.
U.S. Sens. Daniel K. Akaka and Daniel K. Inouye issued a news release praising the bill, which passed yesterday by a veto-proof vote of 69-30.
The $15 million is provided in so-called Disproportionate Share Hospital resources to help support Hawaii hospitals for uncompensated care. To draw on the money, the Legislature would have to provide matching funds of $2.5 million in the fourth quarter of this year, $10 million in 2009 and $2.5 million for the first quarter of 2010.
The bill also would protect doctors from a 10.6 percent reduction in Medicare reimbursements and increase preventive health care coverage.
"There is no doubt that this bill is a prescription for better health care," Inouye said.
Akaka said many of the bill's opponents had a chance to meet with doctors, beneficiaries and military families during the Fourth of July recess and "now understand how tremendously important it is."
"This legislation must become law to protect access to health care for seniors, individuals with disabilities and members of our armed services and their families," he said.
"I was so pleased to see my good friend and colleague Ted Kennedy return to the Senate to help lead passage of this vital bill," Akaka said, referring to the Massachusetts senator who had been diagnosed with a brain tumor.
Inouye said, "I am pleased that we have overcome the opposition and passed the Medicare Improvements Act. Congressional approval means the health care of our nation's seniors, veterans and active-duty military are no longer in jeopardy.
"Furthermore, this crucial legislation also benefits Hawaii by extending Medicaid Disproportionate Share allotments for the state, which does not have a permanent DSH share."
Richard Meiers, Healthcare Association of Hawaii president and executive director, said, "All facets of this bill are sorely needed by our providers in Hawaii. It will improve the quality of care for our citizens. We all know that our facilities are going through very troubled times right now.
"We are very appreciative of our delegation for all the work they are doing on behalf of the health care community and the people of Hawaii. We sincerely look forward to the state matching the required dollars to these federal funds."