fah hospital policy blog

Perspectives on health policy affecting America’s hospitals and the patients we serve.

Category Archives: rural

Rural Hospitals: Providing Vital Access to Care for Disparate Populations

November 25, 2014 | FAH Hospital Policy Blog Team

Category: Health Care Delivery, Legislation, Rural

Approximately 60 million Americans live in rural regions – which represent 20% of the US population. Each of these Americans counts on their local hospital for care, with one hospital often serving large regions. As such, rural hospitals nationwide face unique and continuous challenges to provide 24/7 access to care for every patient. This lame duck session, we ask lawmakers to protect patients in rural communities.

In many rural areas nationwide, hospitals are the center for health care services, often several communities. These hospitals are the lifeline for access to care. Unfortunately, budget cuts make the threat of closure a real possibility for rural hospitals.

If a hospital closes, it is the patients and communities who suffer most. Patients are forced to travel great distances to the next available hospital, which can be the difference between life and death with emergency and critical care needs requiring immediate attention. Rural hospitals are also a driver of the local economy, creating many jobs for the community, making them an economic lifeline as well.

We hope policymakers will join FAH in our support for ensuring access to essential care in rural communities. Policymakers must remember: when rural hospitals close or service lines disappear, patients and communities are the ones who lose.

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Extender Policies Critical For America’s Rural Hospitals

January 09, 2014 | FAH Hospital Policy Blog

Category: Hearings, Rural

Today the House Committee on Energy and Commerce’s Health Subcommittee is holding a hearing to address the flawed Medicare payment formula known as the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR), and move closer to a more permanent solution. The hearing will also explore the impact of extenders policies for Medicare payments that are expiring, and how they will work within a new payment structure.

The FAH submitted a statement to the Committee in support of an SGR fix, identifying critical extender policies for rural hospitals that must be included in any payment system modifications. The continued efforts of Congress to find and implement a replacement to the SGR system is necessary to hospitals around the country who require dependable Medicare payments for their physicians and staff.

Rural hospitals, which traditionally serve older, low-income populations, are disproportionately affected by these issues; the unique patient demographic in rural regions often lend to a high volume of Medicare dependent patients with a lower volume of patients overall. This is why the extension of the Low-Volume Hospital Payment Adjustment (LVH) and Medicare Dependent Hospital Program (MDH) are essential for rural hospitals to continue to provide care.

Rural hospitals are often the sole provider of comprehensive medical care in their communities and also serve as the largest employer and economic engine in these areas. With more than 60 million Americans—representing 20% of the population—residing in rural regions, the protection of these local hospitals is essential. Patients in these areas depend on their community hospital for quality care and economic stability. If these hospitals are forced to close their doors, these residents will have to travel great distances to receive care, and communities will suffer significant health care job losses.

The FAH is pleased to submit a statement to the Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee to advocate for the extension of the LVH and MDH programs. A permanent fix to the SGR payment flaw must include provisions to protect rural hospitals, which serve as a cornerstone of their communities.

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Standing Up for Rural Hospitals on the Hill

December 04, 2013 | FAH Hospital Policy Blog

Category: Legislation, Rural

As Congressional staffers hold briefings today on rural health care, the FAH would like to thank the many members who have already cosponsored bills that support these critical local hospitals serving 60 million Americans nationwide. Hospitals serve an especially important role in rural regions due to their unique geography and demographics. In many areas, a single hospital serves the entire community—making staff cuts, diminished access to care and the threat of possible closure all the more concerning.

Unfortunately, as of October 1 of this year, two Medicare programs essential to rural hospitals expired. The Low Volume Hospital (LVH) and Medicare Dependent Hospital (MDH) Adjustments are necessary for rural hospitals who have a disproportionate number of Medicare beneficiaries or a relatively low volume of patients walking through their doors.

Fortunately, legislation exists to extend the vital LVH and MDH programs for one year. The Rural Hospital Access Act of 2013, S. 842, was introduced by Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) with Representatives Tom Reed (R-NY) and Peter Welch (D-VT) introducing a companion bill in the House (H.R. 1787).

The FAH and our members are grateful to those Members of Congress who are on the growing list of cosponsors of these two bills and applaud their efforts to ensure continued access to health care in rural communities nationwide.

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Rural Hospital Funding Threatened by Budget Cuts

November 25, 2013 | FAH Hospital Policy Blog

Category: Rural

In a recent article, Melissa Attias of CQ Roll Call highlighted two administration proposals that would hurt funding to rural hospitals, impact access to care and threaten hospital closures. In an interview with Attias, FAH President and CEO Chip Kahn said hospitals are “fighting on dual fronts” as they work to renew certain Medicare provisions in the budget that have lapsed (as of Oct. 1, 2013), while fending off additional potential cuts to rural facilities. In his interview, Kahn explains:

“…the Federation of American Hospitals is currently focused on the fight to renew two payment provisions that were extended through fiscal 2013 as part of a fiscal cliff package that also extended Medicare physician payments (PL 112-240). In a nutshell, one helps fund hospitals that have a low volume of patients, while the other helps support ‘Medicare dependent’ facilities that see a high percentage of Medicare patients.”

Hospitals are not alone in this fight. Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Representatives Tom Reed (R-NY) and Peter Welch (D-VT) and dozens of their colleagues are standing up for their rural hospitals by supporting S. 842 and H.R. 1787 to ensure these critical rural policies are renewed.

Further, many policymakers remain concerned about potential budget cuts targeting rural hospitals. 60 million Americans live in rural regions and depend upon their rural hospitals for access to critical care. Reducing payments to rural hospitals will impact both access and the economic contribution these hospitals provide in these communities.

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