Sewell help Introduce Bipartisan Save Rural Hospitals Act

Published 3:24 pm Friday, May 26, 2023

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U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell (AL-07) introduced the Save Rural Hospitals Act of 2023 on Wednesday.

The legislation will help curb the alarming trend of hospital closures in rural communities and make sure rural hospitals get reimbursed by Medicare.

“All across Alabama, we’ve seen the devastating impact of rural hospital closures which only accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Sewell said. “It is unacceptable that so many Alabamians are being forced to drive hours to receive life-saving care.

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“With this bipartisan legislation, we’re taking action to help keep rural hospitals open by ensuring that they are fairly reimbursed for the critical services they provide.”

According to numbers released by Sewell, 194 rural hospitals have closed since 2005.

The Save Rural Hospitals Act will establish an appropriate national minimum (0.85) for the Medicare Area Wage Index to ensure that rural hospitals receive adequate payment for the care they provide, while preserving the existing reimbursements for urban hospitals.

The legislation will also help ensure fairness in reimbursements for hospitals across the country—including the many hospitals that are facing closures in rural areas—and fix severe and disproportionate disadvantages that unfairly penalize hundreds of communities and hospitals across the country.

“We applaud Congresswoman Sewell’s steadfast priority for initiatives that strengthen access to health care for the most vulnerable citizens in Alabama,” said Danne Howard, Deputy Director of the Alabama Hospital Association. “The Save Rural Hospitals Act will help address the decades-old flaw in the Medicare reimbursement methodology that has negatively impacted Alabama hospitals more than in any state in our nation. Our hospitals have survived on reserves, cost-cutting measures, staff reductions, and eliminating services. Those options are counter to the mission of Alabama’s hospitals in providing quality care to their communities.

“The compounded impact of the Medicare disparity has created pressures that are unsustainable. Our options have been exhausted. If nothing changes, more hospitals across our state will be forced to make difficult decisions about their future operations, the services and the jobs they support. Rural America has experienced more than 100 hospital closures since 2010, and many continue to face limited or no access to specialty care. The Save Rural Hospitals Act will ensure that Alabamians have equal access to care and are not disadvantaged for living in a majority rural state.”