A Tool for Rural Health Care in Nebraska: The Rural Emergency Hospital Designation

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Rural hospitals provide vital health care services to their communities, but many have been forced to close in recent years because of increasing financial challenges. To help keep essential facilities open, Congress created a new type of licensure in December 2020 that provides supportive funding to maintain small rural hospital operations under certain conditions.

The Rural Emergency Hospital (REH) designation became effective at the start of 2023 for states that have passed legislation to regulate the new federally established health care provider type. Nebraska is 1 of just 15 states with laws in place to enact the program, although no Nebraska hospital has yet committed to pursuing the licensure. This brief examines the status of rural hospital services in Nebraska, details of the REH designation, concerns regarding its implementation, and the potential impact of REH facilities on health care in rural Nebraska.