Illinois Critical Access Hospitals urge Congress, Administration to protect CAH designation

All 51 Illinois Critical Access Hospitals (CAHs) signed a letter by the Illinois Critical Access Hospital Network to Members of Congress, the Administration, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius and HRSA Administrator Dr. Mary Wakefield. The letter outlines their concerns for the proposed cuts to the CAH program and asks for support to keep the CAH designation, without decreasing cost base reimbursement or eliminating CAHs due to proximity to other facilities. The letter states “that proposed cuts to the CAH program and other rural hospitals will devastate rural communities and reduce and/or eliminate access to healthcare for our rural residents.” NRHA applauds Illinois Critical Access Hospital Network for standing up for rural patients, doctors and Critical Access Hospitals. NRHA encourages all states to write their senators and representatives and ask Members of Congress to oppose any deficit reduction plan that modifies the Critical Access Hospital program. Excerpt from the letter: “Leaders of Illinois CAHs are very concerned about the budget discussions in Washington and at the Illinois Capitol in Springfield.  Most CAHs have breakeven budgets or operate with less than one percent margins with at least 10 CAHs in Illinois with less than 10 days cash. The proposed budget cuts will soon lead to the closure of a number of CAHs and, at others, limit the ongoing upgrading of diagnostic equipment and necessary facility improvements.    It is extremely difficult to recruit physicians to rural communities and nearly impossible to recruit physicians to communities without hospitals. Medicare reimbursement reductions will exacerbate existing recruitment and retention challenges. One of the budget proposals currently under consideration is the elimination of CAH designation for certain hospitals that are 10 miles or fewer from another acute care facility.  Illinois has four CAHs that would lose this designation and accompanying cost reimbursement payment system for Medicare services based on 10 miles.  If expanded to 20 – 25 miles, almost all of the 51 IL CAHs would lose designation status and hit Illinois rural healthcare hard. Illinois and other states can well document that the CAH cost-based payment system has been the major financial lifeblood of these facilities and kept rural hospital doors open since 1999.  As mentioned earlier, Congress created the CAH program to ensure access to quality healthcare for residents in these communities.  Losing CAH designation and/or the addition of restrictive requirements threatens the existence of these facilities and eventual elimination of jobs and economic and healthcare benefits for those rural communities. In summary, CAHs are the healthcare safety net and healthcare hub for 51 rural service areas geographically dispersed throughout Illinois.  Their presence ensures local access to quality healthcare, whether the need is for emergency, inpatient or outpatient services.  They provide significant employment opportunities, and support the vitality of Illinois’ rural communities and their on-going economic development.”