New certification will help secure Smith House's future

The Smith House received its Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) Look-Alike designation on Feb. 20. The program makes the Smith House eligible for enhanced Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement, allows it to participate in the 340(b) Federal Drug Pricing program and receive an automatic Health Professional Shortage Area designation. This is a step in the right direction its making sure we have financial stability,said Smith House director Robin Pierce. The Smith House is working to make sure were here for the next 30 years. Pierce noted that people on Medicare would retain their $131 for their deductible, adding that the amount could help those on limited budgets. Thirty-five percent of the Smith Houses patients use the Medicare program. Instead of worrying about paying a deductible, that money can be used on fuel or food, said Pierce. The Smith House has been working on the application for about 18 months, sending in the form to the Health Resources Services Administration about a year ago. The status also allows the Smith House to participate in the 340 B Pharmacy Program, which has helped secure a buyer for the Willsboro Pharmacy. The cost-sharing program will help keep the Smith House solvent. Pierce added that currently the health care industry was facing an unstable financial environment. Trying to remain in the black is a constant challenge. She added that the Smith House had met the challenge so far, and the designation would only help those efforts. As an FQHC Look-Alike, the Smith House is required to see any patient, regardless of ability to pay which it already does. Eventually, Pierce said the Smith House would like to become a full FQHC, which would enable it to apply for grant funding. We really appreciate our community support, and look forward to continuing to see a positive upswing, said Pierce. The Smith House is a non-profit health center that opened in 1977, and serves over over 3,500 patients from Essex, Willsboro and surrounding communities.

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