NEW: Woonsocket Lawmakers Call for Reimbursement Rates for Landmark Hospital
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Senators Marc A. Cote (D—Dist. 24, Woonsocket, North Smithfield) and Roger A. Picard (D—Dist. 20, Woonsocket, Cumberland) are calling upon the communities close to Landmark Medical Center to lend their support in ensuring good faith negotiations between the failing hospital’s potential buyer and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Rhode Island (BCBSRI).
“We urge the parties to return to the bargaining table to resolve this issue, but we are concerned that an application for plan modification recently filed by Blue Cross with the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH), if granted, would remove any incentive for Blue Cross to bargain in good faith,” said Senator Cote. “We just want what’s best for the many communities that rely on this hospital for support.”
The Woonsocket-based Landmark Medical Center and Rehabilitation Hospital of Rhode Island filed for receivership in 2008. Steward Health Care, a Massachusetts-based health care chain, has been in the process of purchasing the failing facility, but has been unsuccessful in its negotiations with BCBSRI.
Lack of a contract agreement threatens the very existence of the hospital and its essential medical presence in northern Rhode Island, Senator Cote added. The senators – along with Representatives Lisa Baldelli Hunt (D—Dist. 49, Woonsocket), Jon D. Brien (D—Dist. 50, Woonsocket) and Robert D. Phillips (D—Dist. 51, Woonsocket) – noted in a July 20 letter to RIDOH Director Michael Fine: “We believe that Blue Cross Blue Shield’s recent action to inform their subscribers that they will be dropping Landmark from their network has the potential of creating significant financial stress and adverse impacts on the day-to-day operations of this important community medical facility.”
Senator Picard said the process has been unfair to both those who provide services at the facility and those who receive medical attention at Landmark. Furthermore, lawmakers worry about the fact that a significant proportion of Woonsocket’s population is comprised of elderly and low-income individuals.
“The heaviest cost of this impasse will inevitably fall on their shoulders,” Senator Picard said. “These are people in the city who are already struggling with something, whether it be finances, transportation or worse. They live in fear of their next health incident. Both the loss of the facility or higher fees for the public will most certainly create turmoil in the city and perpetuate the issues that put Landmark here in the first place.”
Both senators and their colleagues in the House of Representatives noted in their letter that the proposed base reimbursement rates fall below those paid to other hospitals across the state and put those who need medical services in northern Rhode Island at an unfair disadvantage. They have called upon the health director to reject Blue Cross Blue Shield’s application for plan modification, but that’s not enough, Senator Cote said.
“I am calling on all northern Rhode Islanders and surrounding Massachusetts communities to write to the director of the Department of Health with their concerns about the possible loss of access to medical services at the Woonsocket hospital,” he said. “This is an instance where we all need to fight for what is right and equitable. Approval of Blue Cross Blue Shield’s application will simply put hospital negotiations in a position to fail.”
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