Two Illinois Congressmen Work To Help Rural Hospitals

By Benjamin Cox on December 22, 2019 at 9:01am

Sarah B. Culberton Memorial Hospital in Rushville, Illinois

Illinois Senator Dick Durbin and 16th District Illinois Republican Adam Kinzinger introduced a new bill to support financially vulnerable rural hospitals facing closure. The Rural Hospital Closure Relief Act would update Medicare’s “Critical Access Hospital” or CAH designation so more rural hospitals can qualify for federal assistance. According to a press release from Durbin’s office, 113 rural hospitals have closed within the last decade.

Durbin, Kinzinger, Oklahoma Republican Senator James Lankford, Democrat Iowa Congressman Dave Loebsack all are co-sponsoring the bill to provide relief to the hospitals that are often rural area’s largest employers and economic boons to their community. Under the CAH status, the rural hospitals would be paid a higher Medicare rate to help offset operating costs. Under the new act, the rural hospitals would receive 101 percent of their actual costs from Medicare rather than set rates per service provided as long as they have fewer than 25 inpatient beds, are located 35 miles from other hospitals, have a patient stay time of less than 96 hours, and offer 24 hour-7 day a week ER services.

The Rural Hospital Closure Relief Act would 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. This authority ended in 2006, but today’s bill would re-open this 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 Rural Hospital Closure Relief Act is supported by the Illinois Critical Access Hospital Network (ICAHN), Illinois Health and Hospital Association (IHA), and National Rural Health Association (NRHA).