Federal government extends UMMC Medicare contract termination deadline until January


An 11th hour deal between federal health officials and the United Memorial Medical Center delayed termination of the hospital system’s Medicare contract, pending another inspection of hospital facilities to ensure that health issues and previously discovered security issues have been resolved.

A spokeswoman for the United Memorial Medical Center, which has four sites in the Houston area, said she was confident the next inspection would show that the hospital had corrected all of the deficiencies cited in previous inspections and would retain its federal contracts.

“They will do one more inspection, and hopefully the hospital will continue to have Medicare and Medicaid,” said Duni Hebron, director of public relations and communications. ” And everything will go just fine. “

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which oversee government health insurance programs, had scheduled the hospital’s Medicare contract to be terminated for Saturday. In a letter dated Friday, the agency extended the deadline to January 11 pending the follow-up inspection.

Previous inspections revealed that staff did not have the proper certifications for their jobs and that the hospital had failed to screen staff for COVID-19. Inspectors also found rust on the wheels and casters of operating tables and stools and cockroaches in the operating room, among other shortcomings.

In Friday’s letter, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services wrote that they had extended the termination date due to the hospital’s impact on the community, the recent increase in COVID-19 cases and hospital-reported implementation of previous remedial plans. The federal agency noted that the hospital had made changes to its board of directors and management, and had hired an independent consultant to help the hospital meet and maintain federal standards.

The United Memorial Medical Center could not be reached for comment on changes to its board of directors and leadership.

Medicare is the government health insurance program for the elderly and Medicaid is the program for the poor. Termination of Medicare and Medicaid contracts can cripple a hospital financially, as program reimbursements typically generate substantial income, health care experts have said.

U.S. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston, worked with the hospital and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to secure the extension. She said it was vital for the hospital to maintain Medicare coverage, as many people in the community depend on it. The hospital has distributed around 800,000 COVID-19 vaccines, she said.

“CMS sees the value and works with them,” said Jackson Lee. “We are very grateful that CMS and UMMC have worked together because of the value of this medical facility (a) in serving an underserved community.”

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on Monday granted the United Memorial Medical Center a meeting in which the hospital “presented its case,” according to Jackson Lee. The hospital was notified of the extension late Thursday afternoon.

If the final inspection reveals that the United Memorial Medical Center is not in compliance with one or more of the Medicare Conditions of Participation for Hospitals, CMS will promptly notify UMMC of these findings and CMS will terminate the hospital on January 11.

United Memorial Medical Center serves some of the poorest areas in the region, which depend on government health care programs. Its main campus is located in the Northside neighborhood of Houston, in a zip code where the median household income is around $ 36,000, or about half of the median income for the metropolitan area of ​​Houston, according to census data.

The hospital also has locations in Southwest Houston, Sugar Land, and north of Beltway 8.



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