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Senators introduce legislation to help rural hospitals

WASHINGTON, D.C.

Two U.S. Senators, Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) have introduced bipartisan bills to ensure rural hospitals such as Southampton Memorial Hospital in Virginia can keep up with the cost of providing care amid the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. This information comes from Warner’s office.

The Fair Medicare Hospital Payments Act would help curb the trend of hospital closures in rural areas by making sure hospitals are fairly reimbursed for their services by the federal government.

“The current payment policy has long placed some of Virginia’s most rural hospitals at a disadvantage and made it more difficult to provide quality care in communities that need it most,” stated Warner. “The COVID-19 public health emergency has made it more important than ever to do everything we can to support our rural hospitals and this legislation is absolutely critical in doing that.”

“Last year, the Trump Administration updated the formula that determines how much Medicare will reimburse hospitals for patient care, taking into account, among other things, the cost of labor in that geographic area — called the Medicare Area Wage Index …” said Alexander. “Given COVID-19 impacts on rural hospitals, any changes that lower reimbursement would have significant impact. … This legislation will help keep up with the cost of providing care and help curb the trend of Tennessee rural hospital closures by setting an appropriate national minimum for the Medicare Area Wage Index.”

At a minimum, 14 Virginia hospitals would benefit from this legislation, with the number of beneficiaries growing in future years. Among those that would immediately benefit is SMH.

In response, Bon Secours stated through a spokeswoman, Jenna Green: “As a nonprofit organization and Virginia’s only faith-based health system, Bon Secours has felt the financial impact of COVID-19 across our ministry. We operate hospitals in urban, suburban and rural communities across the commonwealth. As such, we are appreciative of any potential relief that may be offered to support these rural hospitals that allow us to remain focused on our mission of delivering high-quality, compassionate health care to all who come through our doors, especially those who are poor, dying and underserved. Bon Secours is grateful for Sen. Warner’s partnership and ongoing support during these unprecedented times.”