That is the question for many of the country’s small rural hospitals, including the more than 600 that are thought to be in danger of closing in the near future.
In 2020 Congress directed the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to introduce the Rural Emergency Hospital, a new Medicare provider type that would give additional federal funding to qualified rural hospitals in exchange for changes in how they do business.
For small hospitals that are willing to discontinue providing inpatient services and cease participating in the 340B prescription drug discount program, CMS offers enhanced payments for outpatient services and as much as $3 million a year in supplemental facility payments.
The new Rural Emergency Hospital program was launched this year, and so far, 15 hospitals have taken up Congress and CMS on their offer while others still consider doing so. Most of the 15 are in southern states that have not expanded their Medicaid program, leaving the hospitals subject to a degree of uncompensated care that hospitals in Medicaid expansion states do not face.
Learn more about the Rural Emergency Hospital designation, what it means, how it affects participating hospitals, and the conditions that factor into hospitals’ decisions on whether to pursue it from the Washington Post article “Rural emergency hospitals try to find their footing.”