UTICA, N.Y. (WUTR) — State representatives Claudia Tenney, Antonio Delgado, John Katko, Tom Reed, and Elise Stefanik introduced the access to Rural Communities Act last week, A bipartisan bill to help rural hospitals maintain operations after a financially hard year.
“Remember so many of them struggled and suffered during the pandemic last year,” Rep. Tenney said. “Because they were shut off from services many of them had to use their facilities to host and care for COVID positive patients.”
Before COVID, rural hospitals were already struggling to make ends meet after the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) retroactively changed reimbursement protocols. The change affected how they were to be reimbursed for their Volume Decrease Adjustment program, which funds hospitals with a significant volume decrease due to circumstances beyond their control.
The money is used to pay for staff and services necessary for the continued operation of hospitals. But as a result of their new formula, 16 small rural hospitals in New York were forced to repay Medicare contractors for payments they received years earlier, these hospitals now owe between $15 to 20 million.
“It’s just unfair that they relied on something and now the government is going back and retroactively charging them and really this could bankrupt them and force us to lose care in rural settings and that would be a disaster for our communities,” Tenney said.
Hospitals like A.O. Fox in Oneonta are struggling to keep their doors open. They are vital sources of healthcare in their small communities.
“They are providing services in needy communities and rural areas,” Tenney said. “Where they really don’t have access to very many patients but also the patients are needing acute care where maybe they can’t get to a city or larger region.”