Brindisi, Reed, Stefanik introduce the Access for Rural Communities Act (ARC Act)

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Reps. Anthony Brindisi (NY-22), Tom Reed (NY-23), and Elise Stefanik (NY-21) introduced the Access for Rural Communities Act (ARC Act), bipartisan legislation to cut red tape and help rural hospitals keep their doors open.

The ARC Act would provide a legislative fix to a problem that arose for 16 rural New York hospitals as a result of a 2015 Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services decision. The 2015 decision created bureaucratic confusion and resulted in recoupment payments being sought by Medicare contractors from the local hospitals. This legislation would provide CMS with the authority to fix this bureaucratic confusion and help New York rural hospitals stay open. 

“Maintaining access to health care for our rural communities is, unfortunately, often times a life or death issue,” Brindisi said. “Congress needs to do everything it can to keep the doors of these rural hospitals open. The ARC Act is a small step to ensuring Upstate New York communities have access to care.”

“We care about ensuring the hardworking people throughout rural New York have access to hospitals,” Tom said. “By slashing bureaucratic red tape we can guarantee the hospitals in our backyard are able to continue their mission of delivering healthcare to people in their times of need.”

“The rural community hospitals in my district are financially vulnerable and rely on the Volume Decrease Adjustment to keep the lights on,” said Congresswoman Stefanik. “This legislative fix will help eight Sole Community and Medicare Dependent Hospitals in the North Country that care for our seniors and the most vulnerable. I am proud to partner with my colleagues in Upstate New York to support rural hospitals and promote quality and affordable health care for our constituents.”

Local health care advocates praised the members’ legislation.

“HANYS applauds Reps. Brindisi, Reed, and Stefanik for their steadfast support of New York’s not-for-profit small and rural hospitals,” said Healthcare Association of New York State President Bea Grause, RN, JD.  “The Access for Rural Communities Act would preserve access to care in rural communities across New York state by protecting critical Medicare Volume Decrease Adjustment payments for financially vulnerable hospitals. We look forward to working with the entire Delegation, under the bipartisan leadership of Reps. Brindisi, Reed, and Stefanik to secure passage of this important bill.”

“We thank Representatives Brindisi, Reed and Stefanik for introducing this bipartisan bill in an effort to bring resolution to the Volume Decrease Adjustment,” said Dewey Rowlands, VP/Chief Financial Officer at Rome Memorial Hospital.  “In light of the government’s efforts to stabilize fragile community hospitals, this will help those like Rome Memorial Hospital to continue to provide the essential services for the patients we serve.”

“Congressman Brindisi has made understanding rural health care issues a priority and we appreciate that he has taken our concerns to heart as he crafted the Access for Rural Communities Act,” said Drake Lamen, MD, President and CEO/CMO of UHS Chenango Memorial Hospital in Norwich, New York. “We thank the Congressman for his leadership on this important bipartisan bill to protect Medicare Volume Decrease Adjustment payments that are so critical to our hospital and the people we serve. Knowing that we have a supportive partner in Washington, one willing to work with his colleagues across the aisle, is encouraging as we strive to provide excellent health care to our community.”

Text of the bipartisan legislation can be found HERE.

Background:

  • Medicare Volume Decrease Adjustment (VDA) are a lifeline that help Sole Community and Medicare Dependent hospitals maintain core staff and services when these facilities experience a significant decrease in patient volume due to circumstances beyond their control.
  • In good faith, hospitals in Upstate New York applied to National Government Services (NGS), the Medicare contractor for New York and New England,  for VDA payments; were determined to meet all requirements to qualify for an adjustment; and in many cases, were awarded funds.
  • However, new VDA calculation instructions from Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) tied to a 2015 Medicare Administrator ruling (Fairbanks Memorial Hospital) required NGS to re-review all VDA calculations made since 2013.
  • As a result, 16 small rural hospitals in New York have faced or continue to face recoupments that could total $15 to $20 million, with a punitive interest rate of over 9 percent.
  • This legislation would provide CMS with the authority to go back and fix the hospital payments in situations like this.

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