(Washington, D.C) When a veteran receives care at a rural Eastern Washington hospital, the Department of Defense may not fully reimburse that hospital for the care provided. In some cases, the DoD’s TRICARE program, which provides health coverage for retired veterans, reimburses Critical Access Hospitals at much lower rates than Medicare—in some cases, up to 20% less. Low TRICARE reimbursement rates make it difficult for the 15 Critical Access Hospitals in Eastern Washington to provide care for veterans.
That is why Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers recently asked the DoD to increase TRICARE reimbursement rates. In a letter to the DoD, McMorris Rodgers joined Congressmen Mike Simpson (R-Id.) and Rick Larsen (D-Wa.) to ensure Critical Access Hospitals who treat veterans receive TRICARE reimbursements at the same level as Medicare reimbursements.
“One of my top priorities is to ensure Eastern Washington veterans receive the benefits they’ve earned,” McMorris Rodgers said. “We can’t balance the budget on the backs of veterans by not paying doctors for the care they’ve performed.”
This is McMorris Rodgers’ latest effort to ensure Critical Access Hospitals aren’t penalized when treating veterans. In order to be classified as a Critical Access Hospital, and receive cost-based reimbursement from Medicare, hospitals must not have more than 25 beds occupied at any time.
In February 2009, McMorris Rodgers cosponsored the Critical Access Hospital Flexibility Act (H.R. 668), introduced by Representative Greg Walden (R-Ore.). The legislation gives Critical Access Hospitals more flexibility in how they account for the 25-patient bed requirement and exempts beds occupied by military veterans from the inpatient bed count.