GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

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July 15, 2013

Health panel eyes $40M aid; AGH eligible

BOSTON — Fed by a surcharge on the most asset-rich hospitals authorized under the state’s health care cost containment law, a new state commission is preparing its first offering of grants to other hospitals, with Gloucester’s Addison Gilbert among the eligible recipients.

“We have $40 million in this first year, and less than that in the years after,” said Health Policy Commission Executive Director David Seltz, discussing the four-year grant program with a commission committee. The panel is now looking into what specific types of projects the commission should back.

With the grants, one commission official said the agency could be looking to fund opportunities for “synergy” or “gap filling,” infrastructure investments or “shifts in the way health care is delivered.”

The commission released a preliminary list of 30 hospitals eligible for the grant program, including both Addison Gilbert and Beverly Hospital, though the requirements for grants will be further refined. Committee members also raised the possibility of seeking legislation to change the statutory eligibility requirements, which were whether the potential recipients are teaching hospitals, for-profit and whether the potential recipient hospitals’ prices are above average.

“I would have included their payer mix, including their Medicaid proportion,” said HPC Chairman Stuart Altman. He said, “It is an interesting mix, and I don’t have any particular hobby horse here, any particular hospital that I think should be included.”

Addison Gilbert was submitted by its new parent nonprofit corporation Lahey Health this past March at the urging of state Rep. Ann-Margaret Ferrante, and under the heading of the new grant funding being targeted for hospitals and other health care facilities that were financially “distressed.”

The self-designation raised some red flags in Cape Ann among those concerned about AGH’s long-term future, but Lahey and AGH officials emphasized the designation was a vehicle for receiving support from the new Health Policy Commission, which was created by the Legislature last year with an eye toward supporting community hospitals and leveling the health-care playing field.

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