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Here we go again: HHS attacks rural hospitals

As rural hospitals rapidly close across the nation, the National Rural Health Association is appalled by yet another attempt by HHS' Office of Inspector General (OIG) to limit rural patients’ access to health care by calling for even more payment cuts to critical access hospitals (CAHs). NRHA calls upon the Administration and Congress to stop the flood of rural hospital closures and protect access to care for millions of rural Americans. This morning (Monday), HHS' OIG released a report suggesting the return of a failed payment system that led to the closure of 440 rural hospitals across the nation in the 1980s and ’90s. In 1997, Congress created the CAH payment system to provide equitable payments to keep rural hospital doors open and preserve access to care. Now, OIG calls for a return to the failed Medicare reimbursement system (the prospective payment system) for post-acute care patients in swing beds, resulting in over a billion dollars in cuts to CAHs, the smallest of all hospitals. Swing beds foster quicker recovery times, provide physician choice and can be the only option for rural patients who want or need to receive care close to home. Due to numerous Medicare and Medicaid cuts and burdensome regulations, 48 rural hospitals have closed since 2010. Nearly 300 more are on the brink of closure. Acting on the OIG's poorly reasoned recommendations will exponentially escalate the number of rural hospital closures. Medicare could save money in many ways. But that’s not the question; the question is what is right for our rural patients and their access to high-quality services. Contact your members of Congress today. Protect rural patients’ access to care. Support critical access hospitals. #SaveRural

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