Congress should support flexible payment options and update reimbursement rates to help rural hospitals overcome the challenges that threaten access to care in rural communities, the AHA told the Senate Finance Subcommittee on Health Care in a statement submitted for a hearing May 17 on the issue. Rural hospitals face unique challenges such as lower patient volumes and older, sicker and poorer patient populations, and depend more on government payers such as Medicare and Medicaid, which each year reimburse them billions of dollars less than the cost of care. They also face surging labor and supply costs and regulatory barriers to care.
 
To help address these challenges, AHA recommends Congress pass the Rural Hospital Support Act, which would make permanent the Medicare-dependent Hospital program and enhanced low-volume Medicare adjustment for small rural prospective payment system hospitals, and allow MDHs and sole community hospitals to choose an additional base year when calculating their payments. AHA also calls for Congress to reopen the necessary provider designation for critical access hospitals; strengthen the Rural Emergency Hospital model; update Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement rates to cover the cost of care; enact AHA-supported legislation and investments to bolster the health care workforce; and make permanent and expand proven telehealth practices.
 
 

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