Pryor, Brownback Offer Remedy to Ailing Rural Hospitals

WASHINGTON D.C. – Senators Mark Pryor (D-AR) and Sam Brownback (R-KS) today said millions of families in small, rural communities have access to quality medical care because the hospital in their area is designated as a “critical access hospital,” allowing the facility to receive a higher Medicare reimbursement for services provided. They are seeking to expand this opportunity for communities and prevent struggling hospitals from closing or reducing staff positions and patient services.

Pryor and Brownback said the bipartisan Critical Access Flexibility Act of 2009 will enable community hospitals to receive a cost-based Medicare reimbursement by waiving a provision in the Medicare law that requires a critical access hospital to be 35 miles away from another health care facility. Specifically, the legislation restores a state’s authority to waive the mileage requirements if all other requirements are met and the state designates the facility as a necessary provider.

“Retaining medical care in rural communities is an ongoing challenge that must be met,” Pryor said.  “My legislation seeks to keep ailing, rural hospitals afloat by simply expanding the circle of providers who can receive an equitable Medicare reimbursement.”

“Rural hospitals are the cornerstone businesses of many small towns in my state of Kansas. Maintaining access to these facilities and their health care providers benefits the surrounding community twofold: it ensures access to vital health care services, as well as offers employment, to the local residents.  This legislation will allow small, rural hospitals in my state to have a reimbursement option that helps to keep their doors open during these uncertain economic times.”

Pryor said the Five Rivers Medical Center in Pocahontas, AR and the Pike County Memorial Hospital in Murfreesboro, AR have expressed interest in the critical access hospital designation, but do not qualify because of their proximity to another health care facility. Residents living in the following 29 cities enjoy access to better health care services as a result of their medical center’s critical access hospital designation: Arkadelphia, Ashdown, Berryville, Booneville, Calico Rock, Clinton, Crossett, Dardanelle, DeQueen, Dewitt, Dumas, Eureka Springs, Fordyce, Gravette, Heber Springs, Lake Village, McGehee, Morrilton, Mt. View, Nashville, Osceola, Ozark, Paris, Piggott, Salem, Waldron, Walnut Ridge, Warren and Wynne, AR.