The Rural Help Act: helping to keep rural hospitals open
The National Rural Health Association says that hundreds of hospitals could be at risk of closing, in addition to the dozens that have already closed in the last decade.
The Rural Help Act, introduced by Pennsylvania Republican Fred Keller, looks to keep rural hospitals open.
"We just want to make sure that our communities have the same access to quality care that communities in more urban settings have," Keller states.
The bill requires the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to determine the precise level of disparity that exists between urban and rural hospital payments in the annual Inpatient Prospective Payment System.
According to Keller, "We just want to make sure that as we look at things, there was equity between the reimbursement rates based on the weighted averages from Medicare for inpatient services. An area where we thought we could be helpful in making sure that they have the resources to remain viable and are getting paid fairly and comparably to what the hospitals in the urban areas might be."
He says the bill also includes next steps: "Once the evaluation is done and we would see where we stand with that, we would look at having the formula changed to make sure that the money was directed to the hospitals that aren't getting equitable payment based upon that costing model."
He says that COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of quality healthcare in rural America.
We are continuing to meet with the hospitals to see what their needs are," he adds. "Of course during COVID-19, we were dealing with many other issues, as they were too, to try to make sure that they had the help and resources they needed through COVID."
Congressman Keller based the Rural Help Act on the model used for the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003, which updated the outpatient payment system.