Massachusetts hospitals to receive $32.6M boost

Bernie Monegain, Editor, Healthcare IT News

Massachusetts has awarded $32.6 million in grants and increased Medicaid rate payments to 69 hospitals and community centers across the commonwealth.

Some hospitals will use the grants or rate payments to supplement their operational budgets. Others have designated the windfall for specific uses - North Adams Regional Hospital, for instance, will apply its $1 million grant for technology upgrades.

The grant to North Adams Regional Hospital is one of the largest announced. Tufts Medical Center in Boston also will receive $1 million, while Brockton Hospital will receive $1.2 million, Quincy Medical Center will receive $2 million and Holyoke Medical Center will receive $2.1 million.

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The largest beneficiaries of increased rate payments will be Mercy Medical Center, Sisters of Providence in Holyoke, which will receive $7 million, and Caritas Carney Hospital in Boston, which gets $4 million.

The money for fiscal year 2009 comes from the state's Essential Community Provider Trust Fund. Gov. Deval L. Patrick made the announcement earlier this week, saying the payment rates will take effect on Feb. 7 and the grants will be distributed in early March.

The goal of the Essential Community Provider Trust Fund is to improve providers' abilities to serve populations in need more effectively and efficiently through community-based care, clinical support, disease management, primary care, care coordination and pharmacy management services.

While previous years' funding included only grant awards, the 2009 distributions include both grants and increased Medicaid rate payments designed to maximize federal financial participation. Funding consists of $17.4 million in grants and an estimated $15.2 million in increased rate payments.

"The Patrick Administration is committed to ensuring access to both preventive and acute care, particularly as we continue the successful implementation of healthcare reform," said Secretary of Health and Human Services JudyAnn Bigby. "The Essential Community Provider Trust Fund gives needed support to hospitals and community health centers at the forefront of patient care."

The facilities receiving money participated in a highly competitive application and evaluation process. In November, the state's Division of Health Care Finance and Policy mailed letters, grant funding applications and instructions to all of the state's hospitals and community health centers. Eighty-two providers across the state submitted applications for funding that totaled approximately $110 million.

In reviewing grant applications and determining award amounts, the Executive Office of Health and Human Services evaluated the financial needs and role each provider plays in the health delivery system in order to maintain equitable access to key services, Bigby said.

The state also emphasized the importance of maintaining or expanding behavioral health services and the development of health centers as medical homes.