Lawmakers OK emergency rule to help rural hospitals in Arkansas access new federal funding

FILE — The state Capitol is shown in this undated file photo.

State lawmakers signed off on an emergency rule Thursday that will allow rural hospitals to access a new pot of federal funding.

The regulation will allow financially strapped facilities to apply for a Rural Emergency Hospital designation that will open them up to millions of dollars in federal assistance and higher Medicare reimbursement rates. The regulation is an emergency rule, meaning it will take effect after the Arkansas Legislative Council meets on Friday.

The General Assembly approved legislation in February enabling the state Department of Health to begin work on the regulation that will allow hospitals to apply for the new status. The designation is open to small, rural health-care facilities that provide mostly outpatient and emergency care.

In exchange, facilities that receive licensure as a Rural Emergency Hospital will have to drop most kinds of inpatient care.