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What happens when critical access hospitals aren't so critical?

NPR, December 8, 2011

Hood Memorial Hospital, in Amite, LA, hasn't been full in at least two decades. Some people say that makes it's a perfect target for efforts to reduce federal spending. On an average day, fewer than four of the hospital's 25 beds are occupied. Last year, Hood posted a $700,000 loss on its $7.5 million in total operating expenses. One of the few bright spots on Hood's balance sheet: the extra money it receives from the federal government through a program for critical access hospitals — small facilities that receive a higher Medicare reimbursement rate to help keep them afloat. In the ongoing deficit reduction talks, critical access hospitals have been singled out at least twice as a program ripe for cutting: in President Obama's budget proposal and by the Congressional Budget Office.