Siwek Center finally OK’d for Medicare aid

HARRISON –

The Dr. Stanley J. Siwek Health Center in Harrison has achieved a breakthrough of sorts: the feds finally approved the Federally Qualified Health Center’s application for Medicare reimbursement.

Joan Quigley, president/CEO of North Hudson Community Action Corp., which runs the facility, credited U.S. Rep. Albio Sires, D-West New York, with acting on the center’s behalf.

A few weeks ago, at the opening of the NHCAC’s in-house pharmacy in West New York two weeks ago, Quigley said she and Harrison health and human services aide Joan Woods advised Sires that, “We were getting nowhere with Medicare,” nearly a year after the Harrison center had opened.

“He promised to intercede – and he did,” Quigley said. “A few days later, we were contacted by a Medicare representative who’d just ‘found’ our file and was going to act on it.”

That was followed last week by a phone call, then by a confirming phone call and letter, that the center’s Medicare registration number had been issued, Quigley said. But it was the congressman who “broke the logjam,” she added.

“Now that we have our Medicare number, we have applied for the Medicaid number we need. After that is received, we will also be eligible to collect charity care from the [state] Uncompensated Care Fund. 

“When we have all that, we’ll break even,” Quigley said.

Another added plus, Quigley said, is the fact that, “our Medicare application for Harrison … is retroactive to Oct. 31, 2016. So we’ll get a little bit of catch-up money from the federal government.”

During the center’s first 11 months of operation (it opened in February 2016), it saw 1,531 individual patients during 2,990 visits, Quigley said.

For those services, she said, the center “should have received $380,000 in revenues, but we received only $80,000 in co-pays or other payments directly from patients. Therefore, we’ve lost $300,000 in 2016. We expect to receive about $75,000 retroactively, reducing our net loss to $225,000.”

Quigley has said previously that NHCAC managed to absorb the lost revenues by cutting back expenses at other facilities it runs.

Asked about plans to accommodate a dental clinic at the Siwek Center, Quigley said the current budget numbers work against that.

“We can’t afford to do it on our own,” she said, “so we are constantly viewing HRSA (federal Health Resources & Services Administration) websites to find a grant we could apply for to fund dental services. Nothing so far.”

– Ron Leir

Ron Leir | Observer Correspondent

Ron Leir has been a newspaperman since the late ’60s, starting his career with The Jersey Journal, having served as a summer reporter during college. He became a full-time scribe in February 1972, working mostly as a general assignment reporter in all areas except sports, including a 3-year stint as an assistant editor for entertainment, features, religion, etc. He retired from the JJ in May 2009 and came to The Observer shortly thereafter. He is also a part-time actor, mostly on stage, having worked most recently with the Kearny-based W.H.A.T. Co. and plays Sunday softball in Central Park, N.Y.