Tester, Roberts introduce bipartisan bill to protect rural hospitals and patients

Senators’ bill eliminates rule requiring critical access hospital patients to stay less than 96 hours

(U.S. SENATE) – Senators Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) this week introduced a bipartisan bill to improve rural medical care and protect Critical Access Hospitals by eliminating a rule that could lead to doctors discharging patients too soon and could prevent hospitals from being fully reimbursed for their services.

The Senators’ Critical Access Hospital Relief Act removes the requirement that physicians at Critical Access Hospitals certify that a patient will be discharged or transferred in less than 96 hours. Tester and Roberts say current law could lead to early discharge from a hospital followed by re-admission, as well as improper reimbursement for hospitals if treating a patient takes longer than expected.

“Putting arbitrary limits on how many hours patients can stay in critical access hospitals is dangerous and violates the trust patients put in their doctors and nurses,” Tester said. “Critical access hospitals play a vital role in providing quality and affordable healthcare in rural and frontier communities, and we shouldn’t shortchange the care someone receives because of their zip code.”

“This rule requires a doctor to be clairvoyant and predict the unknown at the time of admission instead of focusing on treating a patient to the best of their abilities,” Roberts said. “We need to focus on ensuring rural patients have access to the health system, not come up with bureaucratic ways to make it harder for patients in rural areas to get quality care from their doctors.”

Tester and Roberts’ bill is cosponsored by Senators Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), and John Hoeven (R-N.D.)

Tester and Roberts are both members of the Senate Rural Health Caucus. Their bill is available online HERE.