WAVY-TV Norfolk, Va.

Virginia senators reintroduce bill to help rural hospitals recruit, retain staff

By Julius Ayo

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WAVY) — Virginia Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine were among politicians who recently reintroduced legislation to help rural hospitals recruit and retain staff.

Officials hope the Save Rural Hospitals Act will help curb the trend of hospital closures in rural communities by making sure hospitals are fairly reimbursed for their services by the federal government.

Warner and Kaine are joined by and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) John Cornyn (R-TX), Rev. Raphael Warnock (D-GA), John Boozman (R-AR), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), and Roger Wicker (R-MS) in reintroducing the bill. It was first introduced in 2020 as a response to the record number of rural hospital closing amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Currently, many hospitals in rural areas lack the resources available to those in more populated areas to offer competitive salaries.

Due to those salary differences, rural hospitals receive lower reimbursements from the federal government, which contributes to their lack of resources and perpetuates a harmful staffing crisis.  

The bill aims to “establish a national minimum of 0.85 for the Medicare Area Wage Index, which is used to adjust a hospital’s overall payment from the Medicare program on the basis of geographic differences in labor costs, to ensure that rural hospitals receive fair payment for the care they provide.”

In Virginia alone, 16 hospitals across the Commonwealth would benefit from this floor being put in place.