Democratic U.S. Senator Dick Durbin and Republican U.S. Representative Adam Kinzinger of Illinois introduced a new bill to support financially vulnerable rural hospitals facing risk of closure.
The bipartisan co-sponsors say that the Rural Hospital Closure Relief Act would update Medicare’s “Critical Access Hospital” (CAH) designation so more rural hospitals can qualify for the financial lifeline, and continue to serve their communities with quality, affordable health care services.
Small hospitals are the backbone of rural communities said Durban, and often the largest employers, yet more than 113 rural hospitals have closed nationwide in the past decade, with many more hospitals operating with negative margins.
Durbin said “This bipartisan legislation will update Medicare’s rules in order to strengthen our commitment to rural hospitals and the communities they serve,”. “In Illinois and across the country, rural hospitals are a health care and economic lifeline.”
Under CAH status, hospitals are paid a higher Medicare rate of 101 percent of their actual costs, rather than set rates per service, as long as they have fewer than 25 inpatient beds; are located 35 miles from other hospitals; maintain patient length of stays less than 96 hours; and offer 24/7 emergency care.
The Rural Hospital Closure Relief Act intends to support rural hospitals by providing flexibility around the 35-mile distance requirement and enabling states to certify a hospital as a “necessary provider” in order to obtain CAH designation.
The authority ended in 2006, but the new bill would re-open access to the financial lifeline for certain rural hospitals that serve a low-income community, are located in a health professional shortage area, and that have operated with negative margins for multiple years.
The act is co-sponsored with Republican Senator James Lankford of Oklahoma and Democratic Representative Dave Loebsack from of Iowa.