AHA voices support for rural emergency hospital designation

The American Hospital Association has thrown its support behind CMS' proposed rural emergency hospital designation, stating the new model will "help preserve necessary health care services in already underserved areas." 

CMS unveiled its proposed rural emergency hospital program in June and is expected to issue the final rule this fall. The program, set to begin in January, aims to curb rural hospital closures by offering them a chance to close infrequently used inpatient beds and focus on providing outpatient hospital and emergency department services.

The American Hospital Association said in an Aug. 26 letter to CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure that it appreciates the agency's intent of aligning many of the proposed conditions of participation with existing ones for critical access hospitals and ASCs. The group said the alignment will make the rural emergency hospital conversion and compliance processes less burdensome for the providers seeking the new designation.  

The hospital group also voiced support for CMS' proposal to allow rural emergency hospitals to provide labor and delivery services. 

"It is undeniable that access to maternal and child care services is lacking in certain areas of the country, including many rural communities," the group stated in the letter. 

CMS' proposed rule would limit the average annual length of stay per patient to 24 hours. The American Hospital Association is asking for two exceptions to that requirement.

The group said that for rural emergency hospitals that are able to offer low-risk childbirth labor and delivery services, "it is impractical to expect those patients to be discharged within 24 hours, especially in instances where surgical intervention is required."

The American Hospital Association also said it could prove difficult to successfully charge patients requiring behavioral health or psychiatric care within 24 hours. The group said rural emergency hospitals should have the opportunity to provide documentation showing efforts to discharge and transfer a patient. 

Read the full letter here.

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