Cheyenne, OK – Recently, Congressman Frank Lucas (OK-03) cosponsored the bipartisan Rural Hospital Closure Relief Act, which would support financially vulnerable hospitals serving our rural communities. Introduced by Representative Adam Kinzinger (IL-16), the legislation would update and expand Medicare’s Critical Access Hospital (CAH) program so more rural hospitals could qualify under the program, helping stabilize vulnerable hospitals and allowing them to continue to provide accessible, quality, and affordable health care services to rural communities.
Senators James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) introduced a companion bill in the U.S. Senate.
“An Oklahoman’s zip code shouldn’t be the determining factor of whether or not they or their family have access to quality, affordable health care. As we’ve witnessed throughout the coronavirus pandemic, rural hospitals are critical in communities across Oklahoma’s Third District and the rest of the country,” said Congressman Lucas. “Congressman Kinzinger’s and Senator Lankford’s bill, the Rural Hospital Closure Relief Act, is an important piece of legislation that not only would help struggling rural facilities but also ensure our communities have access to critical health care services they deserve. I’m proud to cosponsor the Rural Hospital Closure Relief Act and look forward to working with my colleagues in the House and Senate as we continue to be a voice for those who call rural America home.”
Under CAH status, hospitals are paid a higher Medicare rate—101 percent of their actual costs, rather than set rates per service, as long as they have fewer than 25 inpatient beds; are located 35 miles from other hospitals; maintain patient length of stays less than 96 hours; and offer 24/7 emergency care.
The Rural Hospital Closure Relief Act would support and stabilize rural hospitals by providing flexibility around the 35-mile distance requirement and enabling states to certify a hospital as a “necessary provider” in order to obtain CAH designation. This authority ended in 2006, but this bill would reopen this financial lifeline for certain rural hospitals that serve a low-income community, are located in a health professional shortage area, and that have operated with negative margins for multiple years.
Lucas was a cosponsor of the Rural Hospital Closure Relief Act in the 116thCongress.