Washington, D.C. – Alaska Congressman Don Young took to the House floor this week in support of H.R. 5273, the Helping Hospitals Improve Patient Care Act of 2016, which contains a provision supporting seniors and healthcare providers in rural Alaska by providing a 5-year extension to a program utilized by hospitals in Juneau, Soldotna and Sitka – the Rural Community Hospital Demonstration Program (RCH).
Congressman Young speaking in support of the Rural Community Hospital Demonstration Program (click here to watch).
“The Rural Hospital Demonstration Program has worked well and has come to the aid of seniors and healthcare providers across rural America,” Congressman Don Young said on the House floor. “Congress created the program to provide increased Medicare reimbursements for hospitals across the nation that are too large to be considered Critical Access Hospitals, but too small to be supported by traditionally low Medicare margins on inpatient services. This program has helped three hospitals in Alaska – Central Peninsula in Soldotna, Bartlett Regional in Juneau, and Mt. Edgecumbe in Sitka. These hospitals serve a wide variety of patients all across those vast areas.”
Congressman Young introduced H.R. 672, the Rural Community Hospital Demonstration Extension Act on February 4, 2015, to extend a program that has helped stabilize essential health services in rural Alaska and 10 other states, and allowed seniors to receive the care they need closer to home. The bill’s provisions, which were included in H.R. 5273, provide much needed relief for hospitals currently or previously participating in the RCH. Bartlett Regional Hospital in Juneau, Central Peninsular Hospital in Soldotna and Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital in Sitka have all participated in the RCH, but were removed from the program as it neared expiration. This extension would allow them to re-enter the program automatically.
“Medicare reimbursement rates have traditionally fallen well below the real cost of doing business. For some hospitals, this disparity is overcome by high patient volume and revenues from non-Medicare services,” said Congressman Don Young upon introduction of H.R. 672. “For others, found in the most remote parts of the country, this shortfall is overcome by increased Medicare reimbursements through the Critical Access Hospital designation. Unfortunately, there are a select group of small rural hospitals that fall in between both of these categories and often have trouble staying afloat. The RCH works to alleviate the pressure put on these hospitals by providing increased annual Medicare reimbursements, which allow for expanded services, much needed equipment, and the hiring of new physicians,”
To be eligible to participate in the RCH, a hospital needs to meet the following criteria:
- Located in a rural area
- Have fewer than 51 acute care beds
- Make available 24-hour emergency services
- Be ineligible for Critical Access Hospital designation
The Rural Community Hospital Demonstration Extension Act has received the full endorsement of the American Hospital Association, a nationwide professional group consisting of 5,000 organizations and 37,000 individuals. For a letter of support from the AHA, click here.
Click here for more information on H.R. 5273, the Helping Hospitals Improve Patient Care Act of 2016.