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Published December 23, 2009, 12:00 AM

Fargo hospitals support North Dakota funding provision

MeritCare and Innovis health officials in Fargo said Tuesday that they support a provision in the U.S. Senate’s health care reform bill that would mean millions in additional funding for North Dakota providers.

By: Kristen Daum, INFORUM

MeritCare and Innovis health officials in Fargo said Tuesday that they support a provision in the U.S. Senate’s health care reform bill that would mean millions in additional funding for North Dakota providers.

The bill includes an amendment offered by Democratic Sens. Kent Conrad and Byron Dorgan to increase Medicare reimbursements for North Dakota and four other rural states. It would mean more than $650 million to North Dakota providers over 10 years.

The provision is intended to make Medicare reimbursements more equitable for North Dakota and the other rural states, as compared to more populated states. Under the current system, North Dakota’s reimbursements are some of the lowest in the nation.

MeritCare could receive up to $20 million more each year beginning in October 2010 if the Senate provision is included in final legislation approved by both houses of Congress, MeritCare public policy officer Bev Adams said.

The Senate is poised to vote on its bill by Christmas Eve.

MeritCare CEO emeritus Dr. Roger Gilbertson, who previously lobbied for Medicare policy changes, said Tuesday that he felt “absolute exhilaration” to see the Medicare discrepancies addressed in the Senate’s health care reform bill.

Gilbertson was careful to say his show of support is specifically for the funding provision benefiting rural states. He said he remains “cautious” about the bill in its entirety because of the high costs involved and potential cuts that might hit providers.

The additional funding would benefit patients in the rural states through improved access to quality care, Adams said, adding that without this funding, health services would likely need to be cut.

Innovis officials echoed the words of support for the rural states’ provision.

“This amendment is a bold initial step in addressing the long-term geographic disparity in Medicare reimbursement to North Dakota health systems, physicians and providers,” Kevin Pitzer, Innovis’ chief administrative officer, said in a statement.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Kristen Daum at (701) 241-5541

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