U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) has led a bipartisan group of 20 Senators in support of rural hospitals and the value they provide to communities across the country. In a letter to Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus and Ranking Member Orin Hatch, Senator Baldwin and 19 other Senators express their opposition to a provision in President Obama's Fiscal Year 2014 budget that proposes to cut Medicare reimbursement levels for rural hospitals. The President's budget proposes reducing Medicare reimbursement levels for "Critical Access Hospital's" (CAH) and removes the "critical access" designation for any hospital within 10 miles of another hospital. Consistent with the President's budget, a recent Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (OIG) report proposes decertifying all CAHs within a certain number of miles from the nearest hospital.
"I am deeply concerned by this proposal. If enacted, these policies would compromise access to health care and weaken rural economies in Wisconsin and across the country. I fear that these proposals could even force many rural Wisconsin hospitals to shut their doors--causing a ripple effect on our economy and leaving many without access to care," Baldwin said. "Critical Access Hospitals play a vital role providing access to medical services, as well as economic security and jobs to rural communities. Given the importance of these hospitals, it is essential that they receive proper Medicare reimbursement--not face devastating cuts. The proposals put forward in the OIG report all require congressional action. That is why I am leading in a bipartisan manner to oppose these policies, while standing up for rural hospitals, their patients, and the local economies they help support."
Nationally, the OIG recommendation would rescind this status for roughly two-thirds of the nation's CAHs. In Wisconsin, the impact would be even worse, resulting in 53 of 58 CAHs losing this status. This change would have a devastating impact on rural communities throughout the country and could unintentionally strip sole community hospitals of their designation.
In the letter, the bipartisan group writes, "Critical Access Hospitals play a vital role providing access to health care, economic security for families and seniors, and jobs to rural communities across the nation. These hospitals are safety nets for hundreds of thousands of Americans, providing inpatient and outpatient services, as well as 24-hour emergency care. CAHs make it possible for patients with complex medical needs to remain at home in rural communities. Importantly, these hospitals also serve as local economic engines. A typical CAH has 141 employees and generates $6.8 million in wages. For every job at a CAH, these hospitals create an additional .38 jobs in their community--generating an added $1.6 million in economic impact. Given the importance of CAHs throughout rural America, it is essential that these hospitals receive proper Medicare reimbursement."
U.S. Senators representing 15 states joined Baldwin in signing the letter. They include; Mike Crapo (R-ID), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Tom Udall (D-NM), Al Franken (D-MN), Roger F. Wicker (R-MS), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Susan M. Collins (R-ME), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Thad Cochran (R-MS), James E. Risch (R-ID), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Tim Johnson (D-SD), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Mark L. Pryor (D-AR), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Mark Begich (D-AK), John Hoeven (R-ND).