ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Local hospital leaders called on the federal government to finalize proposed changes to the Medicare Wage Index. The index determines how much federal funding is given to hospitals for labor costs when they treat Medicare patients.

At 86 cents on the dollar, Capital Region hospitals are currently paid less than the national average, but a proposed rule change would increase payments by 43 percent. With the proposed changes, local hospitals could see nearly $1 billion in additional payments every single year.

Supporters said the additional funding could help hospitals address staff shortages and financial problems in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We can move forward with more flexibility and more certainty, continuing to grow our workforce, managing the rising expenses, and providing our communities with the care that they expect, and they, in fact, deserve,” Albany Med Health System Pres. and CEO Dennis McKenna said.

The proposed changes are under review and must undergo a public comment period before they can be finalized.