The CMS has issued a program memorandum expanding hospitals' eligibility for critical-access status and the higher reimbursement that accompanies the designation. The memo serves as a guide to fiscal intermediaries that will implement the expansion. A regulation isn't needed to make the changes because the language is already in statute, the CMS said. Retroactive to Jan. 1, hospitals with up to 25 acute-care beds can qualify for the program; the previous limit was 15 beds. Under the Medicare reform law signed in December, critical-access facilities are reimbursed at 101% of the cost of delivering care. The number of critical-access hospitals is expected to rise to 863 from about 700, and payments to critical-access hospitals are expected to increase by $900 million over the next 10 years because of the changes. To qualify, a facility must be in a rural area and at least 35 miles from another hospital or state certified as a necessary provider. -- by Jeff Tieman
CMS issues guidance for critical-access expansion
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