CMS denies Sandy relief to New York hospitals

Denials comes as Congress continues to debate relief packages

CMS has denied New York State's request for $427 million in emergency relief funds for health care providers that lost revenue or incurred additional expenses when Superstorm Sandy forced evacuations at hospitals and nursing homes.

The state made the request in November. If approved, the largest share of the funds would have gone to hospitals closed by Sandy. Funds also would have gone to hospitals where services were disrupted because of lost power or temporary damage, as well as to hospitals that accepted evacuated patients. Transportation providers were also included in the request.

While the " proposal had merit," CMS deemed that "the existing channels available to provide assistance, including those through FEMA, Small Business Administration, and other Federal programs, were more appropriate," says New York Health Department (NYHD) spokesperson Bill Schwarz.  

The damaging October storm forced nine New York and New Jersey hospitals to evacuate. Three of those facilities remain closed to inpatient care, including Bellevue Hospital Center and Coney Island Hospital.

NYHD estimates that the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC), which operates the Bellevue and Coney Island hospitals, lost $183 million in revenue because of closures. The CMS relief package was expected to cover half of the lost revenue, according to HHC CFO Marlene Zurack.

"We certainly could not afford this unexpected loss of revenue," Zurack says, adding that the system will be able to pay bills only through June, when annual debt service and pension payments are due. Relief funds from FEMA will pay for repairs, and not for operating losses, Zurack notes.

CMS's denial comes as Congress continues to debate relief packages for regions affected by the powerful storm (Evans, Modern Healthcare, 1/16 [subscription required]).


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