Rep. Delgado Reintroduces Bill to Protect Rural Hospitals

January 25, 2021
Press Release

RHINEBECK, NY – Today, U.S. Representative Antonio Delgado (NY-19) reintroduced the Protecting Rural Access to Care Act to protect small and rural hospitals across New York State that are at risk of losing their Critical Access Hospital (CAH) status due to an administrative policy change made by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). CAH status entitles hospitals to higher reimbursement levels from CMS, ensuring their continued operation in rural areas.

In 2015, CMS amended the criteria for CAH designations by changing how the agency calculates a hospital’s distance from other critical care facilities. As a result of these changes, nine of the 18 CAH facilities in New York State stand to lose their CAH certification -- including three in New York’s 19th congressional district.

“New York's 19th congressional district is at risk of losing three hospitals,” said Rep. Antonio Delgado. “The shuttering of one hospital, let alone three, in a rural area where residents travel long distances for health care and hospitals experience difficulty in retaining and attracting medical professionals, is unconscionable. The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored what folks upstate already knew -- we need more access to health care facilities, not less. My legislation would ensure our hospitals can retain their Critical Access Hospital status and remain open. Margaretville, O'Connor, and Ellenville Hospitals have heroically served our community during the COVID-19 pandemic and are a lifeline to thousands of residents. Congress must immediately pass the Protecting Rural Access to Care Act to protect the public health of rural Americans in NY-19 and across the United States.”

“Congressman Delgado’s work to protect access to healthcare in New York State and Rural America demonstrates his leadership and vision,” said Steven Kelley, CEO of Ellenville Regional Hospital. “This bipartition legislation means that access to healthcare is something everyone can agree on. Thank you Congressman Delgado!”

“Critical Access Hospital designation is more crucial than ever to the survival of small rural hospitals,” said Eric Stein, Southern Region Executive, Bassett Healthcare Network. The Protecting Rural Access to Care Act, introduced by Congressman Delgado, will maintain the financial support of CAH designation for O'Connor Hospital and the other eight New York State Critical Access Hospitals affected by the interpretation of CAH distance requirements. Rural hospitals are the main, and sometimes, only health care and emergency medical service for a large region. The Protecting Rural Access to Care Act will preserve these life-saving services. This legislation will also enable other rural hospitals to apply for and be designated Critical Access Hospitals."

The Protecting Rural Access to Care Act would:

  • Restore the pre-2015 standard permanently for CAHs certified before 2015, ensuring the rules do not change as they seek recertification;
  • Require CMS to engage in a public notice and comment period for any future guidance or regulation changes made to the designation criteria for CAHs; and
  • Ensure that unless any formal update to distance criteria is finalized, hospitals seeking CAH certification or recertification will be subject to the pre-2015 standard.