Today we celebrate National Rural Health Day. This is a great opportunity to highlight the many good things rural hospitals do every day – from providing essential health care services and promoting wellness to serving as economic anchors of their communities. We appreciate our rural hospital members and recognize the significant contribution they make every single day.    

Earlier this week, the “lame duck” Congress began work on finishing the government’s business for the year’s end. This primarily means passing legislation to fund the government past Dec. 9 (when the current funding expires). We are advocating that Congress also pass key health care priorities before adjourning, including two important rural provisions:  

  • RCH Demo: H.R. 5273 (currently pending before the Senate) includes a five-year extension of the Rural Community Hospital demonstration program, something the AHA has strongly advocated for this year. The demonstration enables small rural hospitals with fewer than 51 acute care beds to test the feasibility of cost-based reimbursement. This program has become vital to participating hospitals and is providing valuable data on potential new models for these vulnerable hospitals. The Senate has also passed a standalone bill (S. 607) extending the demonstration. We will be working hard to ensure final passage of this important priority.
  • Direct Supervision: The AHA is strongly urging Congress to pass an enforcement moratorium for CY2016 on CMS’ “direct supervision” policy for outpatient therapeutic services provided in CAHs and certain small, rural hospitals. H.R. 2878 has already passed the House and the companion legislation is pending in the Senate.

We are also looking forward to the release of the AHA Task Force on Ensuring Access in Vulnerable Communities report later this month, which will provide strategies for rural communities to preserve access to essential health care services. After its release, the AHA will work with Congress to introduce and pass legislation that will enable key recommendations contained in the report to be implemented.