Stefanik Announces Protections for Rural Hospitals

Six NY-21 Hospitals Have Critical Access Designation

June 30, 2022

Washington, D.C. – Congresswoman Elise Stefanik today announced that, following her bipartisan advocacy, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released a proposed regulation to reverse to their harmful policy that put rural hospitals at risk.

“I am proud to announce that, following my advocacy, families in rural communities are no longer at risk of losing access to rural hospitals,” Stefanik said. “The Critical Access Hospital designation is vital for hospitals and healthcare centers in the most rural parts of America to continue providing quality care. Now, this proposed fix will protect healthcare access in rural communities and ensure vulnerable hospitals are not at risk of losing their designation. I will always fight for rural hospitals in New York’s 21st District, so our families have certainty on their access to lifesaving care and treatments.”

In 2015, CMS made a policy change that narrows the eligibility criteria for hospitals to certify or recertify as Critical Access Hospitals (CAH). 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.

Today’s proposed revision would effectively restore technical definitions of roads from before 2015, protecting the CAH designation for hospitals in Upstate New York and the North Country.

For years, Stefanik has been fighting against this harmful policy. In January 2021, Stefanik introduced the bipartisan Protecting Rural Access to Care Act, legislation designed to protect the Critical Access Hospital designation. In June 2021, Stefanik called on CMS to reverse this harmful policy and brought this concern to the Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra in January 2022 on behalf of vulnerable rural 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. In New York’s 21st District, Lewis County General Hospital, Carthage Area Hospital, River Hospital, University of Vermont Health Network – Elizabethtown, Clifton-Fine Hospital, and Gouverneur Hospital maintain CAH designation.