Russell Bill Would Preserve Access to Health Care for Rural New Yorkers

June 21, 2011

Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell (D-Theresa) announced passage of legislation (A.5366-B) she sponsored that would allow rural hospitals designated as Critical Access Hospitals to receive cost-based reimbursements from Medicaid for outpatient services.

“Rural hospitals in the North Country and across New York State serve as lifelines to the communities where they are located, and increasingly operate as outpatient clinics as well,” Russell said. “We must do everything we can to keep their doors open and help them remain financially viable.”

The Critical Access Hospital Program (CAH) was created by Congress in 1997 to improve rural health care access for Medicare recipients. Medicare reimburses these hospitals on a “reasonable cost basis;” the same rules, however, do not apply for Medicaid patients. For many Critical Access Hospitals, current Medicaid reimbursement rates do not reflect the actual cost of providing care, causing them to endure financial burdens. Allowing these hospitals to receive cost-based reimbursements will help ensure they remain open to the public.

There are currently 13 hospitals in New York State that are designated as Critical Access Hospitals, including three in the North Country. Critical Access Hospitals – like River Hospital in Alexandria Bay – provide services that are essential to their community, including outpatient services. Because they provide care in a rural area they have more challenges, but they also play a critical role in preventative care that can save health care dollars in the long run.

“When it comes to these hospitals, it’s about access to quality and affordable health care. Paying these hospitals on a ‘reasonable cost basis’ will go a long way to ensuring there is access to health care, enable these facilities to maintain their quality of care and not push additional costs onto other patients to balance their budgets,” Russell said. “Many of us in the North Country depend on hospitals and their health care clinics for basic health care and to manage their health problems without having to travel long distances. If any of these hospitals were to close it would have a devastating impact on our region.”