Ky. Hospital Association defends ‘critical access’ designation that gives small, rural hospitals a federal financial boost

The Kentucky Hospital Association came out strongly for continued federal support of small, rural hospitals Thursday, objecting to a proposal that the “critical access hospital” designation be based entirely on distance from other hospitals. Kentucky has 29 such hospitals, which get slightly higher Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements in return for limiting their size and services.

Until 2006, states were allowed to make the designation based on a community’s health status, poverty rate, rural nature and other factors. So many were designated that they became the majority of critical access hospitals. That is also the case in Kentucky.

The Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department for Health and Human Services said in August that the government could save up to $1 billion a year if the designation were limited to the original criterion, being at least 35 miles from another acute-care facility, or 15 miles in mountainous areas. KHA’s initial repsonse is here.

“The OIG report seeks to eradicate rural health care by shutting down rural hospitals,” said Charles Lovell, CEO of Caldwell Medical Center, a critical access hospital in Princeton. “People call us Band-Aid stations,” but he could provide a long list of lives saved at his hospital, he said. Other speakers cited hospitals’ important role in providing jobs and recruiting doctors for small towns. Cutting the list “would only hurt our communities’ physical and economic health,” said Susan Starling, CEO of Marcum and Wallace Hospital in Irvine.

Fran Feltner, director of the University of Kentucky Center of Excellence in Rural Health, noted that it was National Rural Health Day and said, “I believe every Kentuckian should have access to the right care at the right time, and close to home.”

Critical access hospitals make up only 22 percent of Kentucky hospitals, but maintaining their extra reimbursement would also help the chains that own some of them, because costs of the chain can be allocated to individual hospitals. Here are the critical access hospitals in Kentucky, by county:
Allen: The Medical Center at Scottsville
Breckinridge Memorial Hospital, Hardinsburg
Caldwell County Hospital, Princeton
Carroll County Hospital, Carrollton
Casey County Hospital, Liberty
Cumberland County Hospital, Burkesville
Estill: Marcum and Wallace Hospital, Irvine
Floyd: McDowell Appalachian Regional Hospital; Saint Joseph Martin
Grant: St. Elizabeth Medical Center Grant County, Williamstown
Green: Jane Todd Crawford Hospital, Greensburg
Hart: Caverna Memorial Hospital, Horse Cave
Knox County Hospital, Barbourville
Leslie: Mary Breckinridge Hospital, Hyden
Lincoln: Ephraim McDowell Fort Logan Hospital, Stanford
Livingston Hospital and Healthcare, Salem
Madison: Saint Joseph Berea
Marshall County Hospital, Benton
Mercer: James B. Haggin Memorial Hospital, Harrodsburg
Morgan County Appalachian Regional Hospital, West Liberty
Nicholas County Hospital, Carlisle
Ohio County Hospital, Hartford
Owen: New Horizons Medical Center, Owenton
Russell County Hospital, Russell Springs
Simpson: The Medical Center at Franklin
Trigg County Hospital, Cadiz
Union: Methodist Hospital Union County, Morganfield
Wayne County Hospital, Monticello
Woodford: Bluegrass Community Hospital, Versailles

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