Congress approves bill that will send more fed money to TN hospitals

A bill that would give Tennessee hospitals and community centers more than a half-billion dollars from the federal government over the next decade is awaiting President Barack Obama’s signature, reports Michael Collins.

The U.S. Senate voted 92-8 Tuesday night to approve the measure, which was part of a broader Medicare-reform bill.

The legislation will send $53 million in Medicaid disproportionate share hospital, or DSH, payments to Tennessee hospitals each year for the next 10 years to help them recover the cost of treating patients who cannot afford to pay.

Tennessee is the only state that doesn’t automatically receive the payments every year. Tennessee hospitals gave up their automatic annual allotment of the funds in 1994 when the state created TennCare, the state’s version of Medicaid, because they thought the loss would be offset by new patients who could afford to pay.

In recent years, Tennessee hospitals have been able to receive Medicaid DSH payments through a temporary provision that had to be renewed every one or two years. The legislation, negotiated by members of the state’s congressional delegation, will keep the funding flowing into the state for a decade.

Further, from the Times-Free Press:

“This doesn’t take the sting out of Insure Tennessee, but it’s still a major victory for Tennessee hospitals,” said Craig Becker, president of the Tennessee Hospital Association.

For many safety-net hospitals in Tennessee, the funding “can mean the difference between them having anything on their bottom line or being in the negative,” Becker explained. “For some of our smaller rural hospitals it can mean keeping their doors open.”