PITTSFIELD, Mass. -- U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal, D-Springfield, has asked the administrator for the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services to expedite the process that would restore emergency medical and hospice services to Northern Berkshire County.
The letter to CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner has also been signed by Massachusetts’ two U.S. senators, Elizabeth Warren and Edward J. Markey.
In the letter, Neal, Warren and Markey have asked CMS for its assistance in expediting Berkshire Health Systems (BHS) applications for "provider status" to serve the people of greater North Adams.
BHS, the county’s largest employer, has submitted applications to the state Executive Office of Health and Human Services to both maintain a hospice facility at NARH, and an emergency department at the hospital by including the NARH emergency department on Berkshire Medical Center’s hospital license as a Satellite Emergency Facility under state law.
Both licensure applications have been approved by the state Department of Public Health within EOHHS, according to the letter. Last week, BMC also submitted Medicare Enrollment Applications to its Medicare Administrative Contractors to begin the process of enrolling the hospice center and emergency department as Medicare providers.
Neal’s spokesman, William Tranghese, said on Monday there had been no further developments since the letter was submitted. CMS did not return an email seeking comment.
In their letter, the three legislators state that they understand the process of registering Medicare providers can take months, but asked for the procedure to be expedited due to the importance of having medical services in the North Adams area
"Given the importance of this facility to the northern Berkshire community, we ask that you do all you can to expedite the application process for BHS," the letter states.
"We respectfully request that you work with the MACs, the Region I CMS office, EOHHS officials, and BHS to restore access to medical services for the North Adams community as soon as possible."
NARH has been closed since March 28, three days after Northern Berkshire Healthcare’s trustees voted to close the facility due to it’s "worsening fiscal condition."
On that same day, Berkshire Superior Court Judge John A. Agostini approved an injunction filed by the state Attorney General’s office that allowed the state Department of Public Health, Berkshire Medical Center and other entities to re-establish emergency services under BMC’s direction. Emergency services at NARH were originally ordered closed only for the last weekend in March, but they have yet to reopen.
On April 3, Northern Berkshire Healthcare Inc. filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Springfield. Under Chapter 7, a company stops all operations and goes completely out of business, while a trustee is appointed to sell the firm’s assets, which are then used to pay off debt, according to the website, Investopedia.com.
According to Investopedia, the investors who take less risk are paid first because as secured creditors their credit is usually backed by collateral.
Uninsured creditors, those whose investments are not backed by a lien or other security interest, are paid next. According to documents filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, NBH owes BHS $1.75 million, the highest amount among the 20 largest uninsured creditors who have submitted claims.