House Republican health care leaders decry proposed cuts to critical access hospitals

House Democratic budget proposal would slash funding by more than $13 million

An operating budget proposal released this week by House Democrats would slash state funding for reimbursement rates for critical access hospitals across the state by more than $13 million. House Republican health care leaders say these cuts would hurt rural communities, jeopardize health care services for low-income, immigrant farm workers, and possibly lead to hospitals closing.

There are 38 critical access hospitals in the state, making up 40 percent of hospitals in Washington. Critical access hospitals must have no more than 25 inpatient beds, serve rural areas, provide 24-hour emergency services, and meet requirements for distance from other hospitals. They serve over 60 percent of the state's territory, and are often the only health care facility for miles around.

“Critical access hospitals are an essential component of Washington state's health care delivery system. They are the hub for local health care services in their communities,” said Rep. Joe Schmick, R-Colfax, and lead Republican on the House Health Care and Wellness Committee. “This is a financial hit that, frankly, many of these hospitals cannot absorb. Most will have to cut services and some will be forced to close their doors permanently, placing the health care of thousands of Washingtonians in jeopardy.”

A critical access designation allows hospitals to receive cost-based reimbursement for their Medicare and Medicaid patients. These hospitals often serve rural communities with older and lower income individuals and have a higher ratio of Medicaid and Medicare patients.

In a budget proposal unveiled last Friday, House Republicans said they would fully fund reimbursement rates for critical access hospitals, in addition to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. Rep Bill Hinkle, R-Cle Elum, believes this shows a difference in priorities and an understanding of how important critical access hospitals are statewide.

“I've heard the House Democrats talk about 'One Washington' for a decade now, but these proposed cuts represent the opposite of this slogan. Their budget proposal shows a complete disregard for our rural communities and many people who are struggling to get by in these difficult times,” said Hinkle, a member of the House Health Care and Wellness Committee. “Tough budget times reveal priorities. I'm proud to stand behind a budget proposal that prioritizes funding for critical access hospitals and the important health care services they provide statewide.”

Schmick and Hinkle are also members of the House Ways and Means Committee. To view a comparison between House Republican and House Democratic budget proposals, please click here.

The 2012 legislative session is scheduled to adjourn March 8.

Contact: John Handy, Deputy Communications Director, (360) 786-5758

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Washington State House Republican Communications
houserepublicans.wa.gov