The National Rural Health Association (NRHA) has scheduled a “March for Rural Hospitals” in Washington, D.C. on July 30-31 as struggling hospitals across the nation’s rural landscape attempt to literally keep their doors open to service the 60 million Americans living in rural communities.
Two major issues for NRHA are: A.) funding for Medicare Dependent Hospitals (MDHs) and B.) the rural low-volume adjustment Medicare payments that are set to expire October 1.
Closing Health Facilities for Rural Seniors?
MDHs are small rural facilities that serve a high percentage of Medicare patients. Expiration will mean over 200 Medicare Dependent Hospitals will lose millions of dollars, causing many facilities to reduce services, or worse, close doors, resulting in a devastating impact on rural seniors across the nation.
Additionally, hundreds more rural facilities will also be severely harmed due to the expiration of the rural “low-volume” adjustment. This is a Medicare payment to rural facilities who incur higher incremental costs due to a low-volume of Medicare patients. The loss of such funding will also hurt rural patients, forcing rural hospitals to limit critical services or close facilities.
The Rural Hospital Access Act of 2012
Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) have introduced (S. 2620) the Rural Hospital Access Act of 2012, a bill that will extend the Medicare Dependent Hospital (MDH) and Low-Volume Hospital (LVH) programs for one year. In the House of Representatives Tom Reed (R-NY) and Peter Welch (D-VT) have introduced companion legislation.
While it is critical that Congress enact this legislation, S. 2620 will prevent the expiration of the Medicare-Dependent and Low-Volume Hospital programs for only one year, through October 1, 2013. Congress must develop and adopt more long-term solutions for the future viability of rural hospitals and the residents they serve.
The Rural Medical Facilities Investment and Improvement Act (RMFIIA)
The Rural Medical Facilities Investment and Improvement Act (RMFIIA) is one solution. RMFIIA addresses the long-term and multiple demands of improving rural healthcare infrastructure. Most of the hospitals throughout rural America were built under the Hill-Burton Act of 1946. They are now antiquated and in critical need of improvements/replacement to deliver the kind of quality healthcare that is available today, but not in rural areas.
The draft legislation provides incentives through the tax code for private investment into rural hospitals. While there are current federal programs that provide loans and loan guarantees, they in no-way address the true level of financial needs of rural hospitals today.
Moreover, the legislation requires that healthcare programs including palliative, preventative and wellness are included in the new rural healthcare facilities. This will lead to overall reduction of Medicare unit costs and reduce the dependence on government support.
Impact of Rural Hospitals
Besides 60 million Americans living in rural areas, the loss of our rural hospitals will impact municipalities, pharmaceutical companies, healthcare workers & technicians, and the peripheral businesses that support hospitals.
Consider, according to the Department of Health and Human Services a rural hospital is typically one of the top two largest employers in rural areas. The average critical access hospital creates 107 jobs and generates $4.8 million in payroll annually. Once a hospital closes in a rural community, the local economy experiences a severe decline.
Already, many prominent organizations are supporting RMFIIA as a long-term solution to challenges in our rural healthcare system. Will your family, business or organization be impacted by congressional actions, or inactions?
To find out more about the Rural Medical Facilities Investment and Improvement Act, contact Cansler Consulting.
Cansler Consulting is an experienced lobbying firm in Food and Drug safety, budgeting, agriculture, rural healthcare, and energy policies and through our Congressional relationships we can help you influence the policy makers on Capitol Hill. You can contact us at email@example.com or at (202) 220-3150.