Group asks Congress for greater support of rural hospitals

The Federation of American Hospitals is calling on Congress to reauthorize — or make permanent — two rural hospital payment programs before they expire Oct. 1. 

Charles Kahn III, the group's president, said in an Aug. 30 letter to congressional leaders that the Medicare-dependent Hospital program and the Low-Volume Hospital program provide rural hospitals with "financial stability and support they need to prevent closures and ensure continued access to care in rural communities."

Mr. Kahn said escalating operational costs are adding to the financial pressures with which rural hospitals are already struggling. He also said the country's healthcare workforce shortage in particular is having a "devastating, disproportionate impact on rural hospitals."

"Long-documented recruitment challenges have been exacerbated by an aging healthcare workforce, burnout, price gouging by traveling nurse staffing agencies, competing higher wages in larger cities, and a slowing of visas granted to foreign healthcare workers — all factors that are contributing to higher average payrolls and strained resources," he said in the letter. 

Continuing the two programs now would help provide stability for rural hospitals and the country's healthcare infrastructure, Mr. Kahn said.

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