Cuts May Hit Rural Hospitals

As Congress considers further spending cuts, several proposals target payments made to rural hospitals.
Medicare currently makes limited special payments to some rural hospitals to account for the challenges of delivering care in rural areas. Current proposals being considered in Washington would slash these payments by between $6 and $60 billion over 10 years. One proposal claims rural facilities receive "higher than necessary reimbursement." Their view of history may be short.

In 1997, congress created the designation of Critical Access Hospital, along with higher Medicare payment rates, to prevent a future wave of hospital closures. This followed the closure of 360 rural facilities in the 1980s and 1990s.

Because retirees account for a higher percent of the rural population, Medicare payments make up 40% of rural critical access hospitals payments, compared to 32% for urban facilities. That means expected cuts to Medicare reimbursement rates will disproportionately harm rural hospitals, even without targeting the additional payment they receive as critical access points.

Small rural hospitals are important pieces of the rural health care infrastructure. These facilities promise to be even more important to community vitality in future years as baby boomers age and as provisions of the Affordable Care Act expand health care coverage to a greater number of rural people. Now is not the time to jeopardize access to care in our communities.

For details on specific plans and the cuts each would make, visit the National Rural Health Association http://goo.gl/KAHi9.

For more information on strengthening rural America visit www.cfra.org.

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