Mass. math mistake will cost RI hospitals $7M

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – A Boston medical giant’s math mistake is set to cost Rhode Island hospitals $7 million after federal regulators refused to let the error be corrected, according to an industry group.

Partners HealthCare, the Boston-based parent of Brigham and Women’s and other hospitals, acknowledged earlier this year that its Nantucket facility had miscalculated the wage data used to help set federal reimbursement rates. However, because the error was identified after a deadline for information to be submitted, federal officials ruled this week they would not allow it to fixed.

And since the Massachusetts data also impacts reimbursement rates in Rhode Island, the Ocean State’s hospitals will receive $7 million less in federal funding through the Medicare and Medicaid programs, according to the Hospital Association of Rhode Island (HARI). The Boston Business Journal reported the mistake will cost Massachusetts hospitals $84 million.

In an email, HARI spokeswoman Amanda Barney said the decision will further strain Rhode Island’s hospitals, which already operate on thin margins. “Reimbursement cuts impede hospitals’ ability to invest in the workforce, technology and delivery system reforms that will enhance patient care,” she said.

HARI’s president, Michael Souza, had tried unsuccessfully to convince federal officials to allow Partners to fix its mistake. In a May letter, he argued such a decision would ensure that “Rhode Island is not negatively affected by a data error that hospitals in the state had no control over.”

In denying the request, the U.S. Centers on Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) noted it has “consistently stated” that hospitals which do not follow its guidelines for submitting data “will not be afforded a later opportunity” to make changes or appeal.

On Thursday, a CMS spokesman noted the agency also made a second, related decision as it set its formula that he said resulted in a final calculation “similar to what it would be if we allowed … Nantucket to submit corrected data after the deadline.” But he declined to directly address HARI’s estimate of a $7 million hit to Rhode Island’s hospitals.Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com. He writes The Saturday Morning Post and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and InstagramDue to an editing error, an earlier version of this story incorrectly said Partners HealthCare was the parent of Women & Infants, not Brigham and Women’s.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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