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PA Hospitals Voice Concern Over Wolf’s Budget Plan

Jessica Kourkounis

The Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania is raising some alarm over a fee hike Governor Tom Wolf wants to include in next year’s budget.

Right now, hospitals pay $220 million annually to the state’s general fund under the Quality Care Assessment law, which started as a partnership to ease budget shortfalls after the Great Recession.  

The law is up for renewal this summer. And in his proposal released earlier this year, Wolf called to raise the contribution about 60 percent, to $350 million.

HAP Senior Vice President Jeff Bechtel said they’re bringing the matter up ahead of budget negotiations because they don’t think it’s a sustainable increase.

“If the commonwealth unreasonably increases the amount of the quality care assessment to the state general fund, some hospitals may face difficult decisions,” he said. “This could impact the consumer-focused care that’s being provided by hospitals, and it could potentially lead to closure of services and more travel to get care.”

Wolf spokesman JJ Abbott argued, the state is paying costs involved in expanding Medicaid—something that ultimately benefits the hospital community.

“The commonwealth made a change to expand Medicaid which does incur some cost to the state,” he said. “That change has led to a significant reduction, over the last four years, in the amount of uncompensated care that the hospital community has to pick up—and that’s almost $300 million …clearly there is a net benefit there.”

Both the administration and the hospital group say negotiations on the matter haven’t begun, but they expect to try to reach common ground in the weeks ahead.