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Fiscal bill extends a Medicare lifeline to small, rural hospitals

The Washington Post / Kaiser Health News, January 7, 2013

The New Year's Day "fiscal cliff" deal means at least an extra $450,000 this year to tiny Jones Memorial Hospital in rural upstate New York. "It's very good news," said Eva Benedict, chief executive of the 70-bed hospital in Wellsville, N.Y., a town of 7,000 people near the Pennsylvania border. While much of the hospital industry has lamented the deal reached between Congress and the White House because it will pay only about half the $30 billion bill to avert a 27 percent Medicare fee cut for physicians, the agreement was cause for celebration for about 200 small, rural hospitals. That's because it extended for one year a program that pays up to several million dollars each year to hospitals such as Jones Memorial because they have fewer than 100 beds, are located in rural areas and treat a high proportion of Medicare patients.