AUGUSTA—A bill from Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, to support rural hospitals received a public hearing before the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee on Friday. LD 1350, “An Act To Improve Rural Health Care,” would increase the reimbursement rate for rural hospitals and health clinics.
“Hospitals and emergency rooms spring to action during our worst nightmares and increase our odds of survival. By passing this bill, the Legislature has a chance to do right by the rural residents in this state,” said President Jackson. “Rural Mainers deserve the same access to health care as everyone else. This is about our health, our economy and our lives.”
The bill aims increases the reimbursement rate to rural hospitals to 100 percent. Currently, Maine is not adequately reimbursing hospitals for the cost of care, which is particularly harmful to rural hospitals. In Maine, about 40 percent of rural hospitals are at risk of closing and have collectively lost $20 million in the past five years.
“Our hospitals are essential to the rural way of life in Maine,” said Sen. Mike Carpenter, D-Houlton. “We need to do all we can to help them survive.”
Rural hospitals are the source of more than eight thousand jobs in Maine and often serve as a major employer for communities. According to the Maine Hospital Association, rural hospitals are responsible for more than 8,000 jobs and contribute $1.6 billion to our economy annually. In terms of care, rural hospitals provide care to 240,000 ER patients, 2,500 newborns and 35,000 surgical patients on an annual basis.
Kris Doody, CEO at Cary Medical Center, Shawn Anderson, COO Houlton Regional Hospital and Peter J. Sirois, CEO of Northern Maine Medical Center and the Maine Hospital Association all traveled to Augusta to support of this bill.
LD 1350 will undergo additional work sessions in committee.