Tester pushes Senate leaders to protect rural hospitals and patients

Senator fights to eliminate rule requiring critical access hospital patients to stay less than 96 hours

(U.S. SENATE) – Senator Jon Tester is pushing Senate leaders to include his bipartisan bill to improve rural health care and protect Critical Access Hospitals in an upcoming funding bill.

Tester’s provision removes the requirement that physicians at Critical Access Hospitals certify that a patient will be discharged or transferred in less than 96 hours. Tester says the requirement could lead to doctors discharging patients too soon, and could prevent hospitals from being fully reimbursed for their services if treating a patient takes longer than expected.

Tester, a member of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that funds the Department of Health and Human Services, told committee leaders they need to give rural hospitals more flexibility.

“Without this fix, we endanger patients and hospitals alike,” Tester said. “Doctors should not have to choose between caring for their patients and getting paid. It is a choice no one should have to make, and it is certainly not one the government should be forcing on rural physicians.”

Tester’s bill, which he introduced with Senator Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) earlier this year, has 30 co-sponsors. When he introduced the bill in February, Tester reminded his colleagues that critical access hospitals play an important role in rural America.

“Putting arbitrary limits on how many hours patients can stay in critical access hospitals jeopardizes patient care and violates the trust patients put in their doctors and nurses,” Tester said. “Critical Access Hospitals provide quality and affordable healthcare in rural and frontier communities, and we shouldn’t shortchange the care someone receives because of their zip code.”

Tester is a member of the Senate Rural Health Caucus. His Critical Access Hospital Relief Act is available online HERE. His letter to Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and Ranking Member Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) is available online HERE.