Representatives Thank Lankford, Inhofe and Lucas for Rural Hospital Language Change


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OKLAHOMA CITY – House Speaker Pro Tempore Kyle Hilbert, R-Bristow, and Reps. Trey Caldwell, R-Lawton, and Gerrid Kendrix, R-Altus, today thanked U.S. Sens. James Lankford and Jim Inhofe as well as U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas for their work to change language in rules that will improve patient access to rural critical care hospitals.

The trio of state lawmakers said the congressmen for the past four years have worked to change language by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) that defines payment rates and how close a Critical Access Hospital (CAH) can be to another hospital via a primary road.

Currently, under CAH status, hospitals are paid a higher Medicare rate—101 percent of their actual costs, rather than set rates per service. This higher rate allows many rural hospitals to remain open, the lawmakers said.

The CAH also must have fewer than 25 inpatient beds; be located 35 miles from other hospitals via a primary road; maintain patient length of stays less than 96 hours; and offer 24/7 emergency care.

This week, Oklahoma's Congressional Delegation helped secure a change in the rules that redefines "primary road" between a CAH and a Rural Emergency Hospital. Previously, the rule was any federal highway between hospitals. Now, a “primary road” must be a numbered federal highway “with two or more lanes each way, similar to the description of numbered State highways, and exclude numbered Federal highways with only one lane in each direction.” As before, a CAH must be 35 miles away by primary road from another hospital, or 15 miles if in mountainous terrain. REHs will adopt the same requirement when they go into effect Jan. 1.

"This will open up critical access care for a multitude of rural hospitals," the legislators said. "It's a literal lifeline to residents in rural areas. We're thankful to Senators Lankford and Inhofe as well as to Rep. Lucas for their dedication to making these common sense changes in the language to allow our hospitals to best serve the needs of our rural residents and to ensure hospitals serving different needs can exist in proximity to each other."