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Report: Medicare patients pay more at rural hospitals

Many Medicare beneficiaries treated at primarily rural 'critical access' hospitals end up paying between two and six times more for outpatient services than do patients at other hospitals, according to a report released last week by the inspector general at the Department of Health and Human Services (“Many Medicare Outpatients Pay More At Rural Hospitals, Federal Report Says,” Kaiser Health News, Oct. 8, 2014).

According to a report from the Inspector Genral of the Department of Health and Human Services, there are more than 1,200 critical access hospitals, which are generally the sole hospital in rural areas and can have no more than 25 beds. Medicare pays them more generously so they won’t go out of business.  Medicare requires patients to pay 20 percent of the amount a hospital charges, which means the cost is higher at critical access hospitals because their overall charge is higher.

Many supplemental insurance policies for the elderly pick up the tab, but one in seven Medicare recipients lacks such a policy. In addition, these higher medical costs are ultimately factored into the premiums insurers set.

There are 34 critical access hospitals in Ohio, accounting for 20 percent of all hospitals in the state.