Minimum-distance requirements could harm high-performing critical-access hospitals and rural communities

Michelle M Casey, Ira S Moscovice, G. Mark Holmes, George H. Pink, Peiyin Hung

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Since the inception of the Medicare Rural Hospital Flexibility Program in 1997, over 1,300 rural hospitals have converted to criticalaccess hospitals, which entitles them to Medicare cost-based reimbursement instead of reimbursement based on the hospital prospective payment system (PPS). Several changes to eligibility for critical-access status have recently been proposed. Most of the changes focus on mandating that hospitals be located a certain minimum distance from the nearest hospital. Our study found that critical-access hospitals located within fifteen miles of another hospital generally are larger, provide better quality, and are financially stronger compared to criticalaccess hospitals located farther from another hospital. Returning to the PPS would have considerable negative impacts on critical-access hospitals that are located near another hospital. We conclude that establishing a minimum-distance requirement would generate modest cost savings for Medicare but would likely be disruptive to the communities that depend on these hospitals for their health care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)627-635
Number of pages9
JournalHealth Affairs
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015


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