Critical Access Hospital

KVH is a Critical Access Hospital

“Critical Access Hospital” is a designation given to certain rural hospitals by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). This designation was created by Congress in the 1997 Balanced Budget Act in response to a string of hospital closures in the 1980s and early 1990s.

The CAH designation is designed to reduce the financial vulnerability of rural hospitals and improve access to healthcare by keeping essential services in rural communities. This is accomplished through cost-based Medicare reimbursement (see What are the benefits of CAH status?).

To ensure that CAHs deliver services to improve access to rural areas that need it most, restrictions exist concerning what types of hospitals are eligible for the CAH designation. The primary eligibility requirements for CAHs are:

  • A CAH must have 25 or fewer acute care inpatient beds.
  • It must be located more than 35 miles from another hospital (exceptions may apply – see What are the location requirements for CAH status?).
  • It must maintain an annual average length of stay of 96 hours or less for acute care patients.
  • It must provide 24/7 emergency care services.
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