Legislators win fight for Oakwood family practice funding

Oakwood Healthcare executives, physicians and residents recently had an opportunity to express their gratitude to Congressman John Dingell and several other Michigan congressional representatives for their help in saving the family medicine residency program at Oakwood Annapolis Hospital in Wayne.

“We are extremely grateful to Congressman Dingell and all the members of our congressional delegation for their hard work, leadership and effective advocacy in saving this vital program,” said Brian Connolly, president and CEO, Oakwood Healthcare. “This is not only a win for Oakwood, it’s a win for the entire state of Michigan and the outcome shows what can happen when a community unites.”

In 2004, with guidance from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), Oakwood closed its family medicine program at Oakwood Hospital and Medical Center in Dearborn and opened a new, improved program at Oakwood Annapolis Hospital. After three years of successful compliance audits by CMS, they abruptly disallowed the program, canceling funding and taking back millions of dollars already dispersed to train residents. As a result, Oakwood took its case to what is known as the Provider Reimbursement Review Board (PRRB) – a body created by Congress to serve as independent reviewers and decision-makers when there’s a payment dispute with CMS.

“All the facts were in our favor and in January, the PRRB agreed and recommended funding be restored to our program,” said Connolly. “Unfortunately, rulings by the PRRB are advisory in nature and can be disregarded by CMS staff. Congressman Dingell led an effort in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senator Stabenow led an effort in the Senate to convince CMS and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to let the ruling stand. It worked. This was truly a bi-partisan effort to save a high quality primary care program in our community and we couldn’t have done it without them.”

Congressman Dingell applauded CMS’ decision to reinstate the funding for the family medicine program.

“I have fought tirelessly with my colleagues over the past four years to reverse the error made in 2008 that disallowed any federal funding for the Oakwood Annapolis family medicine program and threatened the very existence of this primary care training program,” said Congressman Dingell. “I am so grateful that the oversight process of the Provider Reimbursement Review Board reassessed the decision because that’s why we are here today. The program is saved.”

Since 2004, 76 primary care physicians have completed the Oakwood Family Medicine Residency Program. A total of 50 graduates stayed in Michigan to practice and 30 of those who stayed in Michigan remained in western Wayne county serving patients in this federal medically underserved area. Between the residents and supervising faculty, the family medicine program serves 26,000 patient visits each year. 

CUTLINE: Barbara McCallahan (left), director of Community Affairs for Senator Debbie Stabenow, Congressman Hansen Clarke, Congressman John Conyers, Congressman John Dingell and Brian Connolly, President & CEO, Oakwood Healthcare gathered at Oakwood Annapolis Hospital recently to celebrate continued funding for the family medicine residency program at Annapolis. The program will help reduce the shortage of physicians and increase access to care for those who live in medically underserved areas.