HARRISBURG – The Senate Health and Human Services Committee approved a bill today that would preserve access to ventilator and tracheostomy care for hundreds of patients in Pennsylvania, according to the bill’s sponsors, Senators Camera Bartolotta (R-46) and Dan Laughlin (R-49).
Senate Bill 959 would dedicate additional Medicaid funding to facilities that serve a substantial number of patients who require ventilator or tracheostomy care. Roughly 700 patients in Pennsylvania receive Medicaid-covered ventilator or tracheostomy care in a nursing home in any given month, but that number could climb even higher in the months ahead due to the coronavirus.
Medicaid currently does not reimburse providers for all of the additional expenses that ventilator and tracheostomy patients incur, including specialized equipment, supplies and staff costs.
“The COVID-19 pandemic underscores the importance of ensuring our most vulnerable patients can still receive the critical care they need,” Bartolotta said. “Providing this kind of life-saving treatment is difficult and expensive, and facilities are not being fairly compensated for the highly specialized care they provide. It is extremely important for us to ensure patients can continue to rely on these services at a time when our entire state needs it most.”
Many providers face the prospect of limiting – or even eliminating – services for these patients. Without action to help providers, patients would be forced to travel long distances to one of the dwindling number of nursing homes that offer these services, or receive care in a hospital, where the daily cost of care is roughly four times higher than in a nursing home.
“The need to adequately fund ventilator and tracheostomy care was critical before the COVID-19 outbreak,” Senator Laughlin said. “The coronavirus crisis has clearly shown the essential need to maintain the limited number of ventilator beds that are available in the Commonwealth. Senate Bill 959 is a good step in that direction and I appreciate the Committee’s support of the bill. I remain committed to working with Senator Bartolotta to move it through the legislative process and to the Governor as quickly as possible.”
The bill would provide an additional reimbursement for facilities that treat a large percentage of patients who require this highly specialized care. Currently, just 13 facilities in Pennsylvania treat more than 300 of the state’s 700 patients who require these services.
The bill was sent to the full Senate for consideration.