Wisconsin Hospital Association press release:
“Misguided Medicare Recommendation Would Decimate Rural Health Care 53 of Wisconsin’s 58 Small, Rural Hospitals Impacted”
—A proposal released August 16, 2013 by the federal government would have staggering implications for rural health care across the country and negatively impact almost every rural hospital and community in Wisconsin.
“What a federal agency is proposing is nothing short of astounding,” said Wisconsin Hospital Association President Steve Brenton, referring to a report released by the federal Department of Health & Human Services’ Office of Inspector General (OIG). “These recommendations would decimate 20 years of health care stability and access to care for Medicare beneficiaries in rural communities across America.”
In the report, they recommend ending a Medicare payment status known as “Critical Access Hospital” for hospitals that do not meet certain distance requirements. The recommendation disregards the fact that each of the impacted hospitals was deemed a necessary provider by their respective states. Nationally, the recommendation would rescind this status for roughly two-thirds of the nation’s critical access hospitals. In Wisconsin, the impact is even worse, resulting in 53 of 58 CAHs losing this status.
“Implementation of this recommendation in Wisconsin will cause great harm to keeping local care local,” said Rural Wisconsin Healthcare Cooperative Executive Director Tim Size. “Ending Critical Access Hospital status for most rural hospitals in Wisconsin will eventually lead to the loss of many of these hospitals along with many jobs in already economically vulnerable rural communities.”
Medicare’s CAH status was enacted under the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 as Congress sought to address the closure of hundreds of rural hospitals across the country, which, due to their small size and care for disproportionately older, sicker and poorer patients, could not financially survive under Medicare’s traditional payment system. The CAH designation provided an alternative reimbursement structure for these very small, rural hospitals in order to keep their doors open.
Since that time the CAH program has operated efficiently, represents less than five percent of Medicare’s total hospital budget, and has provided more than 60 million rural Medicare beneficiaries in the U.S. with access to health care that is close to home.
Reprint of Wisconsin Hospital Association Press release 8/16/13