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Hraychuck Introduces Legislation to Aid Rural Hospitals

Monday, March 8th, 2010 at 1:02 pm

From Rep. Ann Hraychuck:

Critical Access Hospitals (CAHs) are small hospitals, with fewer than 25 beds, that are the only hospital in service for many miles.  CAHs often fund and maintain access to nursing homes, home health, mental health and other important services.  If you have utilized Amery Regional Medical Center, Burnett Medical Center, Osceola Medical Center or the St. Croix Regional Medical Center, you have received medical attention from a Critical Access Hospital.

As of January 1, 2010, the Department of Health Services began implementing an unprecedented 10 percent reduction in medical assistance (MA) payments to CAHs, which ultimately will equal about $15 million dollars.  This funding reduction could not come at a worse time.  Approximately 50 percent of Critical Access Hospitals barely broke even or lost money in 2008, while also experiencing a 24 percent increase in charity care over the last year.

Shortly after learning of this, I met with our hospital administrators to discuss the cut, how it would impact their facilities, and to see if there was anything I could do to help.  They informed me of a proposal that they had been working on that places a modest assessment on Critical Access Hospitals.

Every dollar that hospitals contribute yields a return of about $1.60 from the federal government.  So not only does this proposal restore the ten percent cuts to our Critical Access Hospitals but it also captures additional federal dollars that will result in increased MA payments to these hospitals.  To put it simply, our CAHs will be receiving more in return than what they originally put in.

As the State Representative of a rural district, where services are limited to begin with and MA claims are already high, I knew how crucial these facilities are.  There are 59 CAHs located throughout Wisconsin and these hospitals often are the largest employers in their area.  Our medical facilities must continue to provide excellent care and we also need to do everything we can to protect these jobs that are so important to our rural communities.

One of the provisions of the bill that I am most excited about is the increase in funding for rural residencies and loan forgiveness.  Getting quality medical professionals to move and work in rural areas is incredibly difficult.  We all can benefit from improving the incentives for these professionals to serve municipalities like ours.

As one of the lead authors of this bill (Assembly Bill 770), I am happy to announce that it has broad bipartisan support.  With nearly forty co-sponsors, I am confident that we will be able to get this bill signed into law.  On Thursday, March 4, the Assembly Committee on Rural Economic Development passed AB 770 out of committee by a vote of 7-2.  It will now go before Assembly Committee on Finance which reviews all legislation that has a fiscal impact.

As always, please feel free to contact my office regarding this or any other state legislative matter.  I can be reached toll-free at 1-888-529-0028 or by email at Rep.Hraychuck@legis.wisconsin.gov.

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