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Schumer says pending changes in federal rules about Medicare funding will help area hospitals

Strong Memorial Hospital at the University of Rochester Medical Center will place more than 1,500 employees on furlough starting Sunday, the medical center said.
Strong Memorial Hospital at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on Friday that there is some much needed federal aid on the way to help hospitals across upstate New York including in the Rochester area.

The New York Democrat said in a virtual news conference that after advocating for a change in the formula regarding reimbursement through Medicare, he expects nearly $1 billion to be spread out across a number of hospitals including $82 million for Strong Memorial and $57 million for Rochester General. And Schumer said those payments would continue to happen on an annual basis.

“For years Upstate New York got unfairly low Medicaid, Medicare payments,” said Schumer. “In other words, when you went in for a certain treatment, Medicare paid our hospitals less than it should have and paid other hospitals more than it should have. It’s based on something called the wage index, how much it costs to hire somebody, and they just had the numbers wrong.”

At Strong Hospital, Chief Financial Officer Adam Anolik said their hospital has incurred extra costs since the start of the COVID pandemic.

“We serve patients, we do research work, we have education, and the increased costs that we have here, we're not able to pass on to our customers, like a lot of industries do,” said Anolik. “So, although this is significantly helpful, and again, we are very thankful for Senator Schumer's leadership on this issue, it's not a complete solution, we still have gaps here.”

Anolik said that Strong Hospital's labor costs this year are running $36 million more per month then they were in the year before the COVID pandemic began.

A statement from Rochester General said that the proposed change in funding is an important first step to addressing the years of Medicare under-funding that the hospital has experienced.

Schumer expressed confidence that although the final changes in rules regarding the hospital funding have to be approved by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) later this year, that the final figures they come up with will be close to what he disclosed on Friday.

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.