Health department must pay for uninsured State attorney general issues opinion in Kernan Hospital case; Health care


The state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene must continue to pay for care for uninsured rehabilitation patients who are now served at Kernan Hospital, Attorney General J. Joseph Curran said in an opinion.

The ruling was requested after a series of changes in the way rehabilitation patients were served.

The health department used to operate its own rehabilitation facility, Montebello Center. The legislature in 1992 turned Montebello over to University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS). The law transferring Montebello said the health department should pay specified amounts to UMMS through fiscal 1997 to cover care for the uninsured at Montebello, then should negotiate an amount each year with UMMS.

In 1996, UMMS consolidated Montebello's services on the Kernan campus.

After the fiscal 1997 payment, the health department stopped the payments.

This prompted UMMS to ask the Health Services Cost Review Commission, which sets rates for state hospitals, for a $1.4 million rate increase to cover care for the uninsured at Kernan. The commission wondered whether the health department should have kept up its payments, and it sought the attorney general's opinion.

Curran said the 1992 law meant the health department was obligated to pay, "assuming that Montebello at Kernan continues to service the historic Montebello service population."

Michael Golden, a health department spokesman, said the department would follow the opinion and negotiate with UMMS.

Robert Murray, the rate-setting commission's executive director, said yesterday that the commission had asked to participate in those talks, because the outcome could have an impact on Kernan's rates.

Pub Date: 6/10/98

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