Washington, D. C. – Congresswoman Elise Stefanik and Congressman Antonio Delgado (D-NY) today sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Brooks La-Sure requesting to reverse a policy that puts vulnerable hospitals at risk of losing their Critical Access Hospital status.
The Critical Access Hospital (CAH) designation provides hospitals enhanced reimbursement rates to keep essential healthcare services in rural communities.
“North Country families depend on rural hospitals to provide lifesaving care and treatments,” Stefanik said. “Taking away the designation of Critical Access Hospitals will be harmful to our healthcare system and harmful to North Country patients. I am proud to take a stand with Congressman Delgado to ensure Critical Access Hospitals can maintain their status and provide critical care to residents of the North Country.”
“While our rural New York hospitals combat COVID-19 and take care of patients, we must ensure they have the resources necessary to provide critical services,” Rep. Delgado said. “Changing the eligibility criteria for the Critical Access Hospital designation hurts our upstate hospitals and makes it harder for rural New Yorkers to receive care. I will keep working with my colleagues on this issue to help support our hospitals and communities.”
Stefanik and Delgado sent a similar letter to CMS on June 8, 2021, but have not received a response. In 2015, CMS made a policy change that narrows the eligibility criteria for hospitals to certify or recertify as Critical Access Hospitals. By inserting a more restrictive standard for what qualifies as a “secondary road,” currently designated Critical Access Hospitals may no longer meet the distance requirements to retain their certification, delivering a blow to rural hospitals as they seek to emerge from the severe fiscal challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Across the country, rural hospitals continue to struggle and close at alarming rates. As such, the National Rural Health Association strongly supports the actions of Representative Stefanik to protect Critical Access Hospitals (CAH). Ensuring that these vital, lifeline hospitals are able to maintain their payment status during and beyond the COVID-19 public health emergency is critical to the wellness of rural Americans. NRHA continues to urge the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to reconsider their 2015 policy to narrow the eligibility criteria for hospitals to recertify as CAHs,” said Alan Morgan, Chief Executive Officer of the National Rural Health Association.
“Rural communities across New York rely on their Critical Access Hospitals to provide reliable access to healthcare services. We applaud Reps. Stefanik and Delgado for their tireless, bipartisan efforts to protect New York’s CAHs by preserving Medicare’s previously longstanding mileage requirements. These hospitals and their patients need certainty that these critical services will not be at risk, particularly in light of the challenges posed by COVID-19 that will reverberate beyond the pandemic,” said Healthcare Association of New York State President Bea Grause, RN, JD.
Reps. Sean Maloney (NY-18), Claudia Tenney (NY-22), Tom Reed (NY-23), and Chris Jacobs (NY-27) also joined Stefanik and Delgado in sending this letter.
Read the full letter here.