Union Hospital seeks state legislative support
— Support for its pediatric partnership, a new helipad at Singerly Fire Company and help addressing behavioral health problems are some items Union Hospital leadership hope to get help from Cecil County’s state lawmakers when the 2017 Maryland General Assembly session begins Jan. 11.
Union Hospital President and CEO Dr. Richard C. Szumel presided over a legislative meeting between hospital leadership and state lawmakers on Friday, his first since taking over as president in January. During the meeting, he voiced three initiatives specific to Cecil County that it would like help with for this upcoming 90-day session.
Union Hospital is looking
for support of their agreement with Nemours and Maryland Medicaid (innetwork provider) to offer insurance for the pediatric patients treated through the Union Hospital and Nemours partnership. The pediatric partnership is also seeking legislation to require Child Protective Services to sign off on a form similar to the form used in Delaware for the discharge process of at-risk newborns and needed funding through Medicaid.
Finally, Singerly Fire Company, in participation with Union Hospital, University of Maryland Medical System and the town of Elkton, is seeking funds for a new helipad on its property.
Phillip Scott, president of Singerly Fire Company, told lawmakers Friday that they have been the primary 911 transport for this area since 2007 when Union Hospital built its parking garage. However, the original site was disrupted when Singerly was undergoing a renovation and expansion a couple of years ago.
“In order to provide safer helicopter transports for our community, a planning committee began in March to design a new site,” Scott said. “Maryland State Police supports this project.”
Scott also told Union Hospital officials that Singerly has been in talks with State Sens. Stephen Hershey (RUpper Shore) and James E. DeGrange (D-Anne Arundel), both of whom support the project.
Union Hospital is providing $40,000 for site engineering work, but they are seeking $300,000 in the state budget to pay for construction. If approved, construction is expected to begin after July 1.
“It’s been good working with the town and the hospital on this,” Scott said.
Szumel led the discussion on the hospital’s overall priorities which mirror those supported by the Maryland Hospital Association.
“I want you all to know, first of all, we are financially strong, growing and we are already partners and are collaborating with many others to provide safe, high-quality health and wellness services,” Szumel said.
However, Szumel stressed that the hospital operates in an increasingly challenging environment complicated by its goals during a five- year initiative to modernize Maryland’s unique all-payer rate-setting system for hospitals.
Under the initiative, hospitals have to meet certain goals and if they don’t reach them, they are financially penalized at times.
“We’re told how much we can make each year,” Szumel said. “We want to keep this Medicare waiver, but the commission has stepped up penalties to us if we don’t meet specific parameters.”
The Health Services Cost Review Commission in Maryland controls the rates that hospitals charge, but they don’t control the rates that medical doctor’s office or nursing homes charge.
“Cecil County has to compete with Christiana Hospital (in Delaware), which doesn’t have the same rules,” Szumel told the lawmakers.
Some of the requirements of the five-year plan that’s underway in Maryland put Union Hospital at a disadvantage on readmission rates because of its proximity to Christiana Hospital, Szumel explained.
Despite that, Szumel said Union Hospital is doing well with its demonstration project, which is now in its third year.
Union Hospital asked lawmakers to push for budget negotiations to keep a $25 million annual spend-down commitment on a tax that began in 2009 as temporary at $19 million but has grown to $365 million.
“It raises every hospital bill by 2.3 percent and threatens success of the Medicare waiver,” Szumel said.
Since Maryland ranks ninth in the nation in per capita malpractice payouts, the hospital wants lawmakers to reject trial lawyer’s efforts to increase caps on non-economic damages and create a no-fault birth injury compensation fund.
Another top priority of Union Hospital is funding needed to address behavioral health problems.
“We are asking for a predictable annual reimbursement increase for behavioral health providers,” Szumel said, adding, “This is critical.”
He also asked for much needed reimbursement for tele-health services and to block any legislation that prevents the efficient delivery of care for behavioral health patients.