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Sen. Grassley introduces additional rural hospital model bill

The Rural Emergency Acute Care Hospital Act of 2015 (S.1648) was introduced today by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), to establish a new Medicare payment designation, the Rural Emergency Hospital to sustain emergency services in rural communities. Rural hospitals are critical to the 62 million rural Americans that rely on them to receive necessary local care. Rural hospitals provide care to vulnerable rural Americans as well as serve as an important economic and social anchor for their communities. However, far too many of these hospitals are in trouble. Since 2010, 55 rural hospitals have closed, 283 more are on the brink of closure. And the pace of closures is increasing, since January 2013, more rural hospitals have closed than in the previous 10 years combined. Continued cuts in hospital payments have taken their toll, forcing closures and leaving many of our nation’s most vulnerable populations without timely access to care. If Congress doesn’t act to stop the bleeding and prevent further closures of rural hospitals, 700,000 patients would lose direct access to care; patients and local economies will suffer. Our health care system is undergoing dramatic changes. As stated in NRHA’s policy paper, providers have become increasingly aware that the current rural safety net programs are not structured for success in this new environment. While it is critically important to sustain the rural safety net providers such as Rural Health Clinic, Federally Qualified Health Center, Critical Access Hospital, Medicare Dependent Hospital, Sole Community Hospital, physicians and other rural programs and providers during this time of change and uncertainty, it is equally important to outline a meaningful phased and non-destructive transition strategy that successfully links today’s payment and patient care delivery structures to the health care systems of the future. NRHA applauds the forward thinking of Sen. Grassley by introducing a new model of rural health care to provide rural hospitals and communities a path forward to provide local care.  NRHA remains committed to advancing legislation that will also stabilize the rural health care safety net by stopping the numerous Medicare cuts that are significantly harming the financial viability of many rural hospitals.

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