Congress yesterday passed a farm bill conference report that authorizes assistance for rural hospitals to refinance a debt obligation as an eligible loan or loan guarantee if the assistance would help preserve access to health services in a rural community and meaningfully improve the financial position of the hospital. The provision would require rural hospitals seeking refinancing to meet the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s financial feasibility and adequacy of security requirements. Among other rural health care provisions, the Secretary of Agriculture would set aside at least 20 percent of funding for Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grants to address substance use disorders in rural areas. The legislation also would increase annual funding for the program to $82 million for fiscal years 2019 through 2023. The AHA will provide more information to members as it becomes available. The president is expected to sign the bill as early as next week.

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