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CAH Status Challenge Must Consider Access

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, August 21, 2013

Even with additional funding Putnam says that 40% of critical access hospitals lose money. "They stay in operation by donations or county funding or local taxes," he says.

"But when you start cutting this much more, then they will have very little choice but to cut access to services or close completely. When that happens, you'll never get it back. I can't tell you of one critical access hospital that closed its doors and then vibrant healthcare was provided in the community afterwards."

And when hospitals shed jobs, cut services, or close their doors, the communities they serve lose a vital economic engine.

"It creates an economic wasteland, "Putnam says." They might get a small physicians' office or a clinic, but 24/7 access is gone and multiple services are gone. You aren't going to get businesses to move into those communities."

In my opinion, nobody should disparage OIG auditors for ensuring that tax dollars are spent wisely. That is their job. And critical access hospitals should not be exempt from review to ensure that they actually need and deserve higher reimbursements.

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