Cheyenne, OK – Congressman Frank Lucas (OK-03) announced today he recently cosponsored Congressman Fed Keller’s (PA-12) Reviewing Urban and Rural Adjustments to Level Hospital Expenses and Lopsided Payments Act, otherwise known as the RURAL HELP Act.
The RURAL HELP Act aims to bring parity to inpatient Medicare reimbursement payments between rural and urban hospitals to help struggling rural hospitals survive by requiring the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to determine the precise level of systematic disparity that exists between urban and rural hospital payments under such reimbursements. It also specifies that once the evaluation is completed, the Secretary shall make an adjustment to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) payment policies to make up for the identified disparity.
“Rural hospitals are essential in Oklahoma. From providing critical health care in communities to driving local economies as the area’s largest employers, rural hospitals are not only the backbone but the heart of our towns and cities,” said Congressman Lucas. “Sadly, Oklahoma’s rural hospitals face the risk of closure due to financial hardships, including disproportionate Medicare reimbursement rates paid between rural and urban hospitals throughout the United States. I’m gravely concerned about the increasing trend of rural hospital closures and I urge the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to examine this payment discrepancy as they further update the agency’s efforts supporting America’s hospitals.”
According to the National Rural Health Association, over just the last ten years, 124 rural hospitals have closed with another 453 at risk for closure.
As it relates to Oklahoma’s Third Congressional District, the RURAL HELP Act will help keep the following hospitals open by providing reimbursement parity with urban or suburban hospitals:
- AllianceHealth Woodward, Woodward County
- AllianceHealth Ponca City, Kay County
- Great Plains Regional Medical Center, Beckham County
- Jackson County Memorial Hospital, Jackson County
- AllianceHealth Clinton, Custer County
- Blackwell Regional Hospital, Kay County
- Stillwater Medical Center, Payne County
- Hillcrest Hospital Cushing, Payne County
- Stillwater Medical- Perry, Noble County
- Elkview General Hospital, Kiowa County
In March, Lucas joined Congressman Keller in sending a letter to CMS Administrator Seema Verma asking her agency to re-evaluate the Medicare Severity Diagnosis Related Group (MS-DRG) classification system in the annually updated Medicare Inpatient Prospective Payment System (IPPS)—the mechanism that determines Medicare reimbursement for inpatient services at most hospitals.
The MS-DRG recalibrations have negatively impacted these types of rural hospitals over the last several years and this re-evaluation is a critical component to ensuring rural hospitals receive the appropriate Medicare reimbursement amount.