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Arrington introduces bipartisan bill to save rural hospitals

Updated: Jun. 11, 2021 at 9:34 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - In 1965, Texas had over 300 rural hospitals. Today that number has dropped almost by half, to 158.

Lubbock Congressman Jodey Arrington has introduced a bipartisan bill that he hopes will help keep the remaining rural hospitals in operation.

He says the “Accountable Care in Rural America Act” will fix a glitch in Medicare’s Accountable Care Organizations program. It provides incentives for hospitals, doctors and providers to work together to lower costs and improve quality of care for patients.

“Providers are paid based on their performance. Imagine that, a health system where tax dollars flow where hospitals are improving on access, their outcome quality metrics are good,” Arrington said.

The program forces all Accountable Care Organizations to measure their performance against themselves. Arrington says the current system is putting rural providers at a disadvantage. He says the formula considers geography, but not patient volume, discouraging them from participating.

“And they struggle. They’re faced with higher level of uninsured, people that don’t pay their bills, can’t pay their bills, than in urban communities. But it’s critical that we keep the ones we have now open,” Don McBeath, the director of government relations at the Texas Organization of Rural and Community Hospitals, said.

Arrington says the new legislation would correct the ACO’s formula, allowing more rural hospitals to participate. He says they shouldn’t be paid based on activity, but productivity.

“We want to reward provider groups for keeping their patients healthy and for intervening in a way that gets them back and out of the hospital and back on their feet and healthy again,” Arrington said.

For local communities, McBeath says rural providers are critical for emergency care, general health care and the economy.

“The average rural hospital in Texas employs 170 people with an annual budget of almost $23 million. If you take that out of that small town’s community, it can be devastating,” McBeath said.

McBeath says Texas has had 26 rural hospital closures in 22 cities since 2010 alone. He says he’s glad Congressman Arrington is taking the lead on protecting this critical resource for communities.

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