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Salary increases will follow Medicare increase

A sweeping Medicare bill that passed the U.S. Senate and is expected to receive the signature of President Bush will mean a great deal to seniors and hospitals in West Alabama.

For Mike Marshall, CEO of Bryan Whitfield Memorial Hospital in Demopolis, the bill will create more than $600,000 in revenue over the next two years. Over a 10-year period, the hospital stands to gain $1.5 million.

What may be better for citizens in this area is the way Marshall plans to spend the money his hospital will receive from the Medicare bill.

Already, Marshall has begun spending some of the money his hospital will gain from a Congressional bill that changes the way Medicare reimbursements are allocated to hospitals in rural communities like Demopolis.

Bryan Whitfield also will receive much needed attention in its emergency room. Marshall plans to redesign the ER to include a triage where a nurse is on stand-by for immediate care.

The specifics of the Medicare bill passed on Tuesday after more than five days of debate are a complicated array of formulas. In terms of Medicare reimbursements to rural communities, the wage index changed. Before this bill, hospitals in larger metro communities received more reimbursements than hospitals in places like Demopolis.

U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, who helped champion the bill that passed Tuesday, said he knew the importance of bringing more money into smaller hospitals.

Sessions and U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby also explained the importance of getting more money for senior prescription drug benefits.

According to Sessions, the old way of paying for prescriptions didn’t make sense.

U.S. Rep. Artur Davis, who spent most of Monday in Marengo County, did not vote for the bill. While he supported a higher reimbursement level for rural hospitals, he said he didn’t believe seniors will ultimately benefit from the legislation.

The Medicare bill, which passed Tuesday, has not yet been signed into law by Bush. However, Bush told a group of seniors in Las Vegas that this legislation will "modernize the system" and "provide high quality care for the seniors who live in America."