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Some rural hospitals could benefit from new Rural Emergency Hospital designation

Posted at 7:08 PM, Nov 01, 2023

OMAHA, Neb (KMTV) — Unfortunately, healthcare in rural America has faced significant challenges in recent years.

According to researchers at the University of North Carolina, more than 100 rural hospitals have closed since 2005, including two in Nebraska, pushing healthcare hours away for many patients.

“We know that mileage matters. Things like strokes, things like heart attacks or interestingly enough something like maternal care," said Jed Hansen, Executive Director for the Nebraska Rural Health Care Association. "You can say every mile matters because for every mile that patient gets away from care we know we will have worse outcomes.”

Right now most of rural Nebraska is served by critical access hospitals.

These are smaller hospitals, less than 25 beds, that are funded through cost-based reimbursements through Medicare.

The new designation that some critical access hospitals could qualify for are Rural Emergency Hospitals, introduced by the Center for Medicare Services in January of 2023.

It switches the formula up, providing facility payments to help offset healthcare costs in an effort to keep emergency medical services available.

“The federal government is going to give them a $3.2 million annual payment and then they will operate like the larger hospitals in that they are going to be paid for the services they render,” said Hansen.

While many of Nebraska’s Critical Access Hospitals would qualify for the REH designation, Hansen cautions it won’t be the right choice for everyone.

“Of our 63 CAH we think as many as a third of them could see some financial benefit from conversion. We have been talking it through with those but ultimately what we think we will see is somewhere between two and six hospitals over the next couple of years will make that conversion."

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