Rural Hospitals May Get Federal Aid To Reshape as Standalone ERs


June 10, 2021 10:26 pm

Rural hospitals have struggled to stay afloat for years against declining and aging populations. Now a potential lifeline exists in a proposal buried in the almost 6,000-page stimulus act signed late last year.

The measure sponsored by Sen. Chuck Grassley calls for small rural hospitals to shutter their in-patient operations, which often lose money, and revamp as standalone emerbency rooms with some outpatient services. Hospitals that seek and receive the new Rural Emergency Hospital designation receive increased funding.

“It gives a chance for these hospitals to exist,” said Spencer Perlman, director of healthcare research at Veda Partners. “It’s a choice between what you have now and nothing.”

But it means that patients who need to be admitted will have to travel even longer distances for care. Rural hospitals with fewer than 50 beds can apply for the new designation, which takes effect in 2023.

On Thursday, Grassley and Sen. Amy Klobuchar sent a letter to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services asking the agency to prioritize implementation of the new Rural Emergency Hospital designation. “If nothing is done, more hospitals and rural Americans will continue losing access to essential medical services resulting in poorer outcomes and higher costs for patients and taxpayers,” the senators said in the letter.