Congressman Don Young Fights for Rural Hospitals, Introduces Legislation to Provide Financial Stability for Rural Providers
Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Representatives Don Young (AK-At Large) and Matt Cartwright (PA-08) introduced the Rural Hospital Sustainability Act to provide financial stability to struggling rural hospitals, and maintain access to quality health care for rural Americans throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Even before the coronavirus pandemic, many rural hospitals that depend on fee-for-service payments faced financial uncertainty as their communities’ populations dwindled. In 2019, 1 in every 5 rural hospitals was at risk of closure due to financial instability. The pandemic has only added to the financial strain, as elective procedures have been postponed and as patients have delayed seeking care for fear of being exposed to the virus.
The Rural Hospital Sustainability Act would provide a financial backbone for struggling rural health systems by expanding upon an existing demonstration program through the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). It would allow states to voluntarily implement a global budget for rural hospitals in lieu of the existing fee-for-service model. Under this program, private and public insurers pay rural hospitals a fixed amount of revenue — a global budget — to cover all inpatient and hospital-based outpatient services.
“Alaska is the biggest state in the Union, and our rural hospitals have been a lifeline to many communities in the most remote areas of our state,” said Congressman Don Young. “More than ever, our rural hospitals are feeling the financial strain caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Our legislation is critical to helping provide financial certainty and a sense of stability to rural health care providers across our state and nation.
“No one should have to worry about where they can get medical treatment, especially during a public health crisis,” said Congressman Matt Cartwright. “If we don’t make a change, some struggling hospitals will be forced to shut down and vulnerable patients in rural areas will have to travel longer distances to receive medical services. This legislation provides hospitals with the financial stability to help them focus on treating patients, not balancing the books.”
“NRHA applauds Representatives Cartwright and Young for their introduction of the Rural Hospital Sustainability Act,” said Alan Morgan, CEO of National Rural Health Association. “Rural hospital infrastructure must change to ensure rural communities have access to sustainable, quality rural hospitals and health clinics. This important legislation will expand the innovative and transformational Global Budget Model throughout rural America.”
Text of the bill can be viewed here.