Messer urges rejection of Administration plan that would imperil Indiana hospitals
(Washington, DC)— Congressman Luke Messer (IN-06) today sent a letter signed by seven of Indiana’s nine U.S. House members urging the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to reject proposed Medicare funding changes that would damage the state’s rural hospitals.
“These are challenging fiscal times for our nation, but the Administration has proposed changes that will reduce payments to rural safety net hospitals in our state to unsustainable levels,” said Messer. “These changes must be stopped because they will jeopardize the future viability of these critical facilities and restrict access to care in underserved areas.”
Critical Access Hospitals (CAHs)—small rural hospitals that meet certain federal guidelines—are the backbone of the rural health care safety net in Indiana. The State’s 35 CAHs provide round-the-clock care, ensuring that rural residents get needed care close to home. There were more than 370,000 emergency room visits and almost 4,000 births at CAHs in Indiana last year alone. These hospitals also employ more than 8,500 Hoosiers in high-paying jobs and generate $1.7 billion in economic activity statewide each year.
The HHS Inspector General has recommended preempting individual state determinations about which small rural hospitals are critical necessary providers and revising federal guidelines in a manner that would significantly lower their reimbursements and “threaten the survival of many of Indiana’s CAHs,” according to Daniel F. Evans Jr., President and CEO of IU Health. The Administration’s most recent budget proposal recommended similar changes.
“All Hoosiers deserve access to critical healthcare,” said Messer. There are five CAHs in the Sixth Congressional District Messer represents, including Decatur County Memorial Hospital, Rush Memorial Hospital, St. Vincent Jennings Hospital, St. Vincent Randolph Hospital, and Margaret Mary Health in Batesville. Representatives Susan Brooks, Larry Bucshon, André Carson, Todd Rokita, Marlin Stutzman, and Jackie Walorski also signed Congressman Messer’s letter.
Tim Putnam, CEO of Margaret Mary Community Hospital and President of the Indiana Rural Health Association, said “I applaud Congressman Messer and the Indiana delegation for recognizing that the challenges faced by rural healthcare providers are unique and for voicing their support for our cause. It is gratifying to know that our congressional leaders empathize with our work and see it as a necessity to keep our communities strong.”
Messer and his colleagues disputed the IG’s central finding that proposed changes would result in Medicare savings. “CAHs provide cost-effective primary care in rural areas that is approximately 3.7 percent less expensive than in urban settings.
Changes proposed by the Inspector General would lower reimbursements for these facilities, forcing some patients to travel longer distances where they would seek more costly care, or worse, delay needed care until their conditions were more serious and costly to treat.” they wrote.
Doug Leonard, President of the Indiana Hospital Association, said: “Cuts to Critical Access Hospitals would not only hurt the ability of Hoosiers in rural communities to access timely, high-quality care, but it would also threaten the economic viability of many Indiana communities. These hospitals operate on very small margins, and bad policy decisions could quickly lead to closures or dramatic reductions in services.”