Faced with declining Medicare reimbursements and increased susceptibility to being bought out by larger providers, rural hospitals have been fighting lean financial times. But small community facilities received a long-awaited funding boost in December 2000 when Congress, in last-minute negotiations, set aside nearly $1 billion for Medicare disproportionate-share payments for rural hospitals over the next five years.
How rural hospitals can take advantage of this new funding and best identify opportunities for additional reimbursement designated solely for struggling community facilities will be the focus of a presentation at the HFMA's annual meeting.
The session, "Rural Hospital Regulatory and Reimbursement Update," will be given by Timothy Wolters, a partner with Baird, Kurtz & Dobson, a Springfield, Mo., public accounting and consulting firm, and Eddie Marmouget, senior manager, also with Baird, Kurtz & Dobson.
Set for 10: 30 a.m. to 12: 30 p.m. Wednesday, June 20, the presentation is targeted at financial managers and will illuminate the complex interrelationships between Medicare reimbursement and hospital operational decisions.
"Congress has realized that it's harder for rural hospitals to adjust when reimbursement is going down, and they've put in some fixes over the last few years to try to make up for the cuts," Wolters says. "But a lot of hospitals are not sure how to take advantage of some of those."
In their talk, Wolters and Marmouget will detail recent changes in reimbursement provisions for sole community hospitals as well as other classification categories for rural hospitals receiving special payment considerations. Among categories highlighted will be the "critical access" classification, designed for very small hospitals with relatively high fixed costs that want to preserve their inpatient services.
"Hospitals have to look carefully to decide whether they want to move that route because it could actually hurt them in some cases to choose that classification," Wolters says. "So they really have to do some evaluation to determine whether or not it makes sense. And we're going to look at that."
Wolters adds that in addition to focusing on changes in hospital reimbursement provisions, the seminar will also address Medicare updates for services such as skilled nursing and home health.