Critical access program brings life, hope back to some rural hospitals. But if access is the goal, it may be overmedicating.
For rural hospitals, many of which have been gasping financially for years, the answer has been the federal Critical Access Hospital (CAH) program. This Medicare-based program gives rural hospitals the organizational equivalent of CPR because it purposefully pays rural hospitals more to care for Medicare patients than urban institutions receive. These higher reimbursement rates have improved profit margins and offered the possibility of upgrading long-neglected facilities.