The Frontier States provision in the new health law provides $2 billion over 10 years to be split by Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Utah to increase the amount doctors and hospitals are reimbursed for treating Medicare patients.
Medicare is the federal health insurance program for Americans age 65 and older. For decades, doctors, hospitals and legislators in Wyoming have complained that the amount the government pays health professionals to treat Medicare patients is too low.
North Dakota Sen. Kent Conrad successfully spearheaded the Frontier States provision and told Congress, “These five states are at the bottom in Medicare reimbursement and have been for many years.”
The Frontier States provision has two phases. The first raises the Medicare reimbursement rate for hospital outpatient services beginning on October 1. The second increases the reimbursement rate for physician services and for hospital inpatient services beginning January 1, 2011.
While Wyoming will get a share of the money, it remains unclear exactly how much, according to Dan Purdue at the Wyoming Hospital Association. He said the money will potentially benefit 12 Wyoming hospitals.
The Frontier States provision is just one aspect of the comprehensive new policy. Thousands of pages of regulations have been released, but others have yet to be determined since parts of the law will not take effect until 2014.
Wyoming Department of Health Director Dr. Brent Sherard and other state officials have been meeting every week to determine how it will impact programs administered by the state.