Rep. Terri Sewell (AL-7) has introduced a bill with Rep. Drew Ferguson (GA-3) to keep rural hospitals open through reimbursements from the federal government.
Titled the Save Rural Hospitals Act of 2021, the bill was introduced as a potential solution to what was described as a trend in closing rural hospitals because lack of revenue during the COVID pandemic.
“As we continuously work to rebuild after the devastation of the past year, it is critically important that we acknowledge the lasting impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on rural hospitals across this nation,” said Sewell said in a press release.
The press release cited findings by the Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research that more than 130 rural hospitals have been closed since 2010, with 20 closing in 2020.
“Even before the pandemic, rural hospitals struggled with inadequate reimbursements, low volume, and high operating costs. Now it is imperative that we provide the reimbursements these hospitals so desperately need," Sewell said.
"That is why I am proud to introduce the Save the Rural Hospitals Act of 2021 to ensure those in rural and underserved communities continue to receive the quality, affordable care they deserve.”
The press release that the closing of rural hospitals were the result of a lower amount of patients coming in as well as financial strain. The release also said that the financial troubles were "compounded by the flawed Medicare Area Wage Index" which caused lower reimbursement rates.
"This legislation would establish an appropriate national minimum (0.85) for the Medicare Area Wage Index to ensure that rural hospitals receive their payment for the care they provide, while preserving the existing reimbursements for urban hospitals," the release states.
Click here to see a copy of the bill.