U.S. Senator Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) this week raised concerns about the effect that cuts to a rural hospital program, as well as the looming implementation of the Affordable Care Act, will have on states like Mississippi.
During a Senate Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on Wednesday, Cochran addressed the Obama administration's FY2014 budget request to reduce Medicare support for Critical Access Hospitals (CAHs). HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius appeared before the subcommittee to explain the budget recommendations for the CAH and other health care programs.
Cochran indicated that rural hospitals in Mississippi are anxious about the proposed health care changes incorporated into the President's FY2014 budget, as well as the full implementation of the Affordable Care Act in 2014.
"We have a large number of poor people living in many Southern states and many of them have benefitted from Department of Health and Human Services' sensitivity to the challenges that many of our small town hospitals face. They are worried now, though, about how these budget reductions, new regulations and new programs might affect them in an adverse way," Cochran said.
"Our rural hospitals want to know whether or not certain payments and reimbursements will adequately reflect the fact that some hospitals in regions like the Mississippi Delta might not be able to keep their emergency rooms open and available to people who need medical attention," he said.
CAHs are designated rural hospitals that operate 24-hour emergency room services. As such, they receive cost-based Medicare reimbursement payments. The President's budget calls for reducing reimbursement for all CAHs from 101 percent of "reasonable costs" to 100 percent. In 2014, CAH status would be eliminated for hospitals less than 10 miles from another hospital, regardless of community need.