Rural hospitals: IOM Medicare cuts would be 'devastating'

The Institute of Medicine's recent proposals to cut federal reimbursements would hit rural hospitals hardest, The Times-Standard reported.

Healthcare leaders in rural areas of California, in particular, are worried about the institute's recommendations, which would cut Medicare payments to the state's hospitals by an average of 3 percent to 4 percent.

According to the California Hospital Association, "another 5 percent reduction would just be devastating," Anne McLeod, CHA's senior vice president of health policy, told the Times-Standard.

The recommendations are part an IOM study to overcome regional healthcare disparities across the country. The study noted that paying physicians and providers higher rates will not attract them to underserved rural areas, FierceHealthFinance previously reported.

Rural providers can breathe a temporary sigh of relief as the recommendations, which also call for a 17 percent cut to doctor payments in Alaska and 9 percent reduction in the Dakotas, aren't likely to become law anytime soon, according to the Times-Standard.

Meanwhile, rural hospitals in Oklahoma are struggling with aggressive auditing, putting auditors under federal scrutiny for allegedly using practices that threaten rural hospitals with financial ruin, reported NewsOK.

U.S. Rep. Dan Boren (D-Okla.) is calling for a federal investigation of Connolly Inc. and other hospital auditors for what he deems "overzealous predatory tactics against several of my constituent hospitals with their aggressive, overly critical approach."

Hospital leaders warn that audit practices under the Recovery Audit program will lead to a string of failing rural hospitals throughout Oklahoma. "In three to five years we'll either have to throw out or totally redo our state's trauma system because there won't be any rural hospitals left if this program is not stopped," Pushmataha County Hospital  CEO Mark Rogers told NewsOK.

For more:
- here's the Times-Standard article
- read the NewsOK article