2 senators introduce legislation designed to protect rural hospitals

Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and James Lankford, R-Okla., introduced the Rural Hospital Closure Relief Act, which would change the Medicare designation of critical access hospital with the aim of keeping more rural hospitals open.

If enacted into law, the measure would provide flexibility around the requirement that critical access hospitals be located more than 35 miles from other hospitals and allow states to certify hospitals as a "necessary provider" for the CAH application process. Critical access hospitals receive higher reimbursement rates from Medicare.

Fifty-one percent of rural hospitals ran operating losses last year, according to a May 11 news release from Mr. Durbin.

"It is not sustainable or safe for patients in rural Oklahoma and around the nation to be forced to drive hours to get to their nearest hospital," Mr. Lankford said in the release. "Our bill would ensure hospitals serving low-income or rural areas can keep their doors open and continue to serve their communities. There are many areas of healthcare in our nation that need our attention, but while we continue to work to address them, we cannot leave out our rural communities. Oklahomans should be able to live where they want and still be able to access quality health care."

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