Though many locals may be cool toward the new federal health care law, Central Peninsula Hospital and Peninsula patients will see a direct, tangible benefit.
At CPH and a smattering of rural hospitals across the nation, a federal program that provides extra Medicare funding will continue as a result of the new law.
The Rural Community Hospital Demonstration Project was slated to end in June, but the new Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the official name of the federal health care bill signed into law on March 23, extended the program another five years.
For CPH, the extension means approximately $2.6 million per year in funding for the next five years, according to hospital CEO Ryan Smith.
"It's been extremely beneficial for our community and for our hospital," Smith said. "It increases our ability to continue with the strategic plan, recruit physicians and increase the number of services that the hospital provides."
Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, fought to add the program extension to the health care bill.
"It's special recognition of the needs of rural health care," Begich said. "It's an opportunity to recognize Alaska for its unique rural capacity that they will deliver health care, recruit primary care doctors and make sure they have the equipment they need and provide services to the state's communities, and in this case, the peninsula."
Juneau's Bartlett Regional Hospital and SEARHC's Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital in Sitka are the only other hospitals in Alaska participating in the program. Nationwide, 13 hospitals have been involved in the program across eight states.
As part of the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is conducting the program to test the process of providing cost reimbursement for small rural hospitals.
Andrew Waite can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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