Wills Eye Hospital preserves Medicare, high-quality care for patients

Steve Tawa
April 27, 2018 - 5:13 pm
Sen. Bob Casey discussed Wills Eye Hospital's inpatient care.

Steve Tawa | KYW Newsradio

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Wills Eye Hospital, a perennial top-ranked specialty hospital, has regained an important federal classification to preserve patient access to high-quality care and receive higher Medicare rates.

When the hospital, located at Eighth and Walnut streets, sold its inpatient business in 2006 to next-door neighbor Jefferson University Hospital, Medicare officials — specifically the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) — found it treated too few inpatients to qualify as a hospital.

Sen. Bob Casey was disturbed to hear that, since his daughter Julia, now a college graduate, had a major vision problem when she was 6 years old.

"Her vision was saved at this hospital," he recalled. "If we didn't get her here, she almost assuredly would have lost sight in one eye."

He agitated for the designation change, which helped patient Mary Louise Beckett of Swedesboro, New Jersey, during her recent week-long stay.

"I was at the point where I was going to lose my eye. I was devastated," she admitted. "But I'm OK now, basically because of all of these fine people."

Ophthalmologist-in-Chief Julia Haller said Wills Eye is "uniquely positioned" to handle complicated eye situations like Beckett's.

"We have a unique team in each sub-specialty of all of the top clinicians in the world," she added.

The hospital argued that CMS officials were arbitrarily preventing high-profile hospitals from participating in Medicare. The hospital designation carries a higher payment rate from Medicare. Wills Eye said it treats some of the most complex and difficult cases in the world. 

In some ways, Haller said Wills Eye was a victim of its own success.

"There has been an effort in medicine as a whole to move to outpatient, more effective treatment, outpatient surgery — we've done that," she said. "We've gone to micro-incisional surgery. Most of our patients are outpatients now."