In early February, I wrote about a provision in the Affordable Care Act that changes Medicare funding formulas to mostly benefit one State -- Massachusetts -- at the expense of the remaining States.
Urban hospitals in a State cannot get paid less than rural hospitals, which are typically located in lower-income areas. If one hospital in a given State receives the special rural reimbursement rate, every hospital in that State also receives the higher reimbursement.
Massachusetts' only rural hospital is the Nantucket Cottage Hospital, a 19-bed hospital located on an island where the median home price is more than $1 million. Because the Nantucket Cottage Hospital receives the rural reimbursement rate, all of Massachusetts' other hospitals also qualify for this rate.
These reimbursements must come from a national pool of money. Accordingly, increases to hospitals in one State result in decreases to the other States. It has been reported that this provision, known as "Bay State Boondoggle," has pumped an extra $367 million per year into Massachusetts' 82 hospitals. This simultaneously reduces payments to hospitals throughout the country -- including hospitals at home in the Commonwealth.
In a bipartisan vote of 68 -- 31, the Senate recently adopted an amendment to their budget that symbolically repeals the Bay State Boondoggle. A separate, stand-alone Senate bill for repeal has 22 cosponsors.
Because the House Ways and Means Committee has jurisdiction over this issue, a bill for repeal has greater chances of advancing in the House if it is introduced by a member of this committee. Earlier this year I was told that the Ways and Means Committee had been working on repeal legislation, but it seems that the committee has yet to act on this issue. If the committee does not introduce a bill, I stand ready to introduce stand-alone legislation to repeal the Bay State Boondoggle.
Trees for Schools
While discussing the sequester with host Jim Bohannon on the America in the Morning radio show on the Dial Global Radio Network, economist and University of Maryland professor Dr. Peter Morici said that President Obama "is choosing to punish the American people because he's not getting the [his sic] way. What we're seeing is a Presidential tantrum."
Now driving Dr. Morici's point home is the recent news that the Obama administration is retroactively demanding repayment of Secure Rural School (SRS) funds that have already been made available to rural counties. The SRS program provides rural communities with funds for schools, teachers, police officers, etc., in lieu of revenue they might otherwise receive from property taxes if the land were not owned by the federal government.
I joined a bipartisan group of my colleagues in requesting a detailed explanation of the legal authority for demanding repayment of these funds, and calling for this action to be halted. The administration may not have adequately planned for budget cuts that took effect early last month, but that should not mean that schools across the Ninth District should have to return money they have already received from Uncle Sam.
The Forest Service over the last several years has been reducing the amount of federal forest land being timbered. There has been a controversy over whether or not this has been proper forest resource management. I believe we can properly manage the forest, increase timber production, and use trees for schools to maintain funding.