WASHINGTON, October 20 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today brought together Obama administration officials, Vermont state lawmakers and the state Department of Mental Health commissioner to discuss federal funding for the Vermont State Hospital.
Restoring the hospital’s certification could yield $10 million or more a year in federal reimbursements for the facility that the state now spends more than $20 million annually to operate and maintain.
“The quality of patient care must be our top priority, but the state and Vermont taxpayers deserve a reasonable process for correcting problems and restoring the hospital’s certification,” Sanders said. “In these difficult financial times, it is unfair to Vermont taxpayers that the state is losing out on $10 million a year in federal reimbursements.”
Sanders convened the meeting of representatives from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Commissioner Michael Hartman of the Vermont Department of Mental Health, and state Sens. Susan Bartlett (D-Lamoille) and Diane Snelling (R-Chittenden).
“We are on the same page and they gave us a path forward,” Sanders said afterward.
The state hospital in Waterbury first lost its federal certification in 2003, regained it in 2004, but lost it again in 2005. The lack of certification makes the facility ineligible to claim Medicare or Medicaid reimbursements that could cover more than half of the hospital’s costs.
In July, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, citing concerns about supervision of a single patient, again denied certification for Vermont’s only state-run mental hospital. The decision followed an unannounced visit by investigators to the 54-bed psychiatric hospital.
While federal investigators have cited lapses, the hospital was certified in 2008 by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Hospitals, an independent, not-for-profit organization which accredits and certifies more than 15,000 health care organizations and programs in the United States.