News Releases

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) introduced legislation to expand access to federal resources for rural hospitals through the Rural Emergency Hospital (REH) Medicare designation.

The Rural Emergency Hospital Improvement Act would increase opportunities for Critical Access Hospitals (CAH) and rural hospitals to convert to an REH and make technical improvements to the designation. These changes would help make the conversion to an REH more appealing by giving rural hospitals facing closure access to critical resources from the federal government to remain open.

“Access to emergency health care saves lives and helps rural communities prosper,” said Sen. Moran. “Too many rural hospitals in Kansas and across the country are struggling to keep their doors open, and this legislation offers those hospitals a lifeline. The Rural Emergency Hospital designation has already helped save numerous rural hospitals, and expanding access to this successful program is a common-sense way to make certain more hospitals stay open.”

“Rural hospitals provide health care in areas where it isn’t otherwise easy to access, so when their doors close, communities are left with almost no options, and that’s dangerous. If you’re dealing with a medical emergency or you just went into labor, the last thing on your mind should be whether your local hospital is still open,” said Senator Smith. “This bill is about public safety. It will make sure that if a hospital is in truly dire straits, they can remain open for emergency care – including obstetric care.”

Created as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, REH is a new Medicare provider designation that offers certain rural hospitals the opportunity to convert and continue operating with limited services rather than closing. The provisions in the REH Improvement Act are the result of numerous conversations Sen. Moran held with rural health care providers and CEOs of hospitals that are eligible for the REH designation.

The Rural Emergency Hospital Improvement Act would:

  • Allow previously closed rural hospitals to re-open and apply for the Rural Emergency Hospital designation if they can demonstrate they met all eligibility requirements between Jan. 1, 2015 and Dec. 27, 2020.
  • Direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to create a waiver program for facilities operating similarly to an REH in order to convert to an REH.
  • Allow REH facilities to maintain or create a unit for inpatient psychiatric care, obstetric care and allow for limited inpatient rehabilitation services.
  • Require the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to provide additional funding for laboratory services.
  • Clarify that REH facilities are eligible for Small Rural Hospital Improvement grants.
  • Direct the Secretary of HHS to allow an REH to be eligible as a National Health Service Corp site.
  • Authorize REH facilities to transfer patients from acute care to a Skilled Nursing Facility without leaving the hospital, in accordance with the Social Security Act.
  • Allow an REH facility to revert back to a Critical Access Hospital (CAH) to regain necessary provider status, only if the facility was designated a necessary provider prior to converting to REH.

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