HCN News & Notes

Committee Approves Rural Hospital, Emergency Psychiatric Care Bills

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Senate Finance Committee approved three bills last week — all backed by the American Hospital Assoc. — to support access to hospital services in rural communities and to emergency psychiatric care for underserved and vulnerable populations.

The first bill would delay through December enforcement of direct-supervision requirements for outpatient therapeutic services provided in critical-access hospitals and certain small, rural hospitals.

The second would extend for five years the Rural Community Hospital Demonstration Program, which enables rural hospitals with 50 or fewer acute-care beds to test the feasibility of cost-based reimbursement. The bill would extend the demonstration only for those hospitals participating in the program as of Dec. 30, 2014, and require the secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to report to Congress on the effectiveness of the program by Aug. 1, 2018.

The third bill would extend the Medicaid Emergency Psychiatric Demonstration Program through September 2016 or whenever HHS completes its final evaluation of the project, whichever occurs first, as long as the extension would not increase Medicaid costs. It also would allow HHS to extend the demonstration project, set to expire this year, for an additional three years and to other states, subject to the same budget-neutrality standard.

The bills now await consideration by the full Senate and House.