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Lawmakers approve an emergency clause that makes state rural hospitals eligible for federal assistance



Searcy, Arkansas – Due entirely to Arkansas legislators, some rural hospitals throughout the state are now eligible for federal financing.

HB1127 was approved during the 94th General Legislative Session.

The bill’s objectives were to establish the rural emergency hospital act, permit the Department of Health to license remote hospitals, and declare an emergency.

Without HB1127, according to state representative Lee Johnson (R-Greenwood), several rural hospitals would be about to permanently close. For some hospitals that are eligible for those federal funds, he describes this law as a lifeline.

“This new designation allows hospitals to qualify for this designation to bill at 105 percent of Medicare for these outpatient services,” he said.

Johnson claims that a facility must have 50 beds or fewer, cease to offer in-patient treatments, and operate only as an emergency room and an outpatient facility in order to be eligible to apply for federal funding.

“It’s important to provide them every avenue we can to think outside the box and create the best situation for themselves economically possible,” Johnson said.

Johnson claimed that more patients are being sent to urban areas for specialist care from rural hospitals. According to him, those institutions place more of an emphasis on treating patients in the emergency room and offering outpatient services.

If surrounding rural hospitals shut down, they would have to step in, according to Unity Health President and CEO Mark Amox.

“If they don’t stay open, then for us that do provide care here in rule communities, you can imagine having to drive 100 miles or more just to receive care, that’s just not sustainable,” he said.

Amox reports that the closure of 22 rural hospitals is possible. He said that their three institutions would have been impacted by this rural emergency hospital charge.

“We here at unity would have to alter our strategy on how do we continue to provide care in those communities that now no longer have a facility,” Amox said.

According to Johnson, the amount eligible rural hospitals will be reimbursed for is solely dependent on the number of Medicare beneficiaries they serve. He thinks that not all facilities will use the available federal funding.

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