State lawmakers across the country are debating legislation to authorize Rural Emergency Hospitals, the new federal model launched by Medicare on Jan. 1, 2023. We believe there's a lot riding on these state authorizations, so we decided to see if the REH Conversion Calculator could help quantify the urgency.
We started with Arkansas, where an authorization bill has already passed the House and awaits consideration by the Senate. Arkansas has 28 Critical Access Hospitals that would be automatically eligible for REH conversion if allowed by state law.
Based on recent financial and operational data, we created a “suitability score” that predicts how well the REH model might fit the needs of each Critical Access Hospital across the state.
Our headline finding: 9 out of 28 Arkansas CAHs could be stronger and more sustainable under the REH model, possibly avoiding outright closure.
(As evidenced by this story in the Democrat-Gazette, it's a headline that's making headlines.)
“We’re not saying that it’s a yes/no decision for any of these hospitals,” says Dawn Carter, an RHI co-founder who helped develop the REH Conversion Calculator. “But the suitability score is a kind of filter that helps hospital leaders think through their options based on data rather than guesswork.”
For privacy reasons, Carter says she can't name the hospitals most likely to survive and thrive by converting to REH status. “There’s a lot of emotion involved when hospitals start talking about changing their services. We don’t want to cause unnecessary alarm in these communities.”
For a more discreet approach, RHI co-founder Bob Wilson says any rural hospital CEO can get a custom suitability score at no cost via the RHI website. “We offer the REH Conversion Calculator as part of our nonprofit, educational mission. We’ll even follow up with a free call to help unpack all the data.”
“Rural healthcare is facing a crisis in Arkansas and all across the country,” he notes. “We believe REH conversions could offer a lifeline in some cases, and we hope hospital leaders will take a first look at the data – particularly if it doesn’t cost them anything.”