Fiscal-cliff deal revives program that helps rural hospitals dependent on Medicare; 200 in nation, 10 in Kentucky

Even though most of the hospital industry wasn’t happy with the fiscal-cliff deal that will only pay half the $30 billion needed to avoid a 27 percent Medicare fee cut for doctors, the deal gave about 200 rural hospitals, including 10 in Kentucky, reason to celebrate. It extends a program that pays hospitals up to several millions of dollars a year because they have fewer than 100 beds, are located in rural areas and have a high percentage of Medicare patients, Phil Galewitz of Kaiser Health News reports.

The Medicare Dependent Hospital Program was created in 1990 and is one of several payment programs designed to help small, rural hospitals deal with financial challenges that larger hospitals don’t face. The program is based on the idea that “some rural hospitals have such a high percentage of Medicare patients they are unable to get enough money from higher paying privately insured patients to make up for the lower government reimbursements,” health lawyer Eric Zimmerman told Galewitz.

The program has come under scrutiny. Congress allowed it to expire in September 2012, but two senators from New York and Iowa made sure $100 million for the program made it into the budget deal. The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission said hospitals in the program will receive about 25 percent higher reimbursements as a result of the funding. (Read more)

The Kentucky hospitals in the program are Clinton County Hospital, Fleming County Hospital, Harrison Memorial Hospital, Jewish Hospital Shelbyville, Logan Memorial Hospital, Monroe County Medical Center, Parkway Regional Hospital in Fulton, Rockcastle Regional Hospital, Taylor Regional Hospital and Westlake Regional Hospital in Columbia. The Appalachian Regional Hospital in Williamson, W.Va., is also considered a Kentucky hospital in the program.

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