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CAH Status Provides Upstate Hospitals Like Wyoming County Community Health With Enhanced Reimbursement Rates, Which Will Bring In Millions In Critical Funding To Support Healthcare Services

Schumer Has Been A Champion Of The CAH Program For Years And Successfully Saved The Program And Several Upstate New York Hospitals At Risk Of Losing Their CAH Status Last Year, Which Helped Wyoming County Community Health System Receive This Critical Designation To Continue Lifesaving Care

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer today announced that Wyoming County Community Health System has been designated as a Critical Access Hospital (CAH) by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). Schumer said that Wyoming County Community Health’s new status will help bring in millions in additional funding to the hospital, strengthening their financial stability to continue providing healthcare for rural communities in Western NY.

"This Critical Access Hospital designation from the feds will be a gamechanger for Wyoming County Community Health System and will ensure the hospital system can provide essential healthcare services for communities in Western NY,” said Senator Schumer. “As majority leader, I have fought tooth and nail to deliver the federal support that our rural healthcare centers need and successfully reversed CMS's ill-fated rules change, protected the Critical Access Hospital program, and delivered nearly $5.5 million in fed funding for Wyoming County Community Health System in reimbursement costs. Now the Critical Access Hospital designation will provide much-needed financial stability so that Wyoming County Community Health System can continue to provide health care for patients and residents for the long term.”

David Kobis, WCCH Chief Executive Officer said, “The conversion to Critical Access designation is projected to result in approximately three million dollars or more in revenue each year which we believe will help WCCHS stabilize our finances and provide a pathway to long term viability in Wyoming County.  Rural hospitals like WCCHS have faced financial and operating challenges for many years, and these challenges are expected to continue for the foreseeable future both in New York and across the country.  We believe that the CMS approval would not have been possible without the support of Senator Schumer and his office and are deeply grateful for his office’s support to Wyoming County.”

Schumer has been a champion of the CAH program for years and successfully saved several Upstate New York hospitals at risk of losing their CAH status in 2022. Schumer said this designation will build on the nearly $5.5 million he delivered for Wyoming County Community Health System in critical Medicare reimbursement funding.

Schumer explained that the CAH program specifically allows smaller rural hospitals, like those in the Finger Lakes, with the designation to receive greater federal reimbursements for care to keep these otherwise financially vulnerable rural hospitals in the communities that need them most. Schumer’s office advocated directly to CMS on behalf of Wyoming County Community Health System to receive this vital designation. Schumer said the designation will go into effect later this year and could generate an anticipated $3 million in annual revenues.

Schumer explained that rural hospitals in Upstate New York face many challenges due to serving a population that has a higher percentage of Medicare beneficiaries and attending to a smaller volume of patients compared to urban and suburban hospitals. This means in order for rural Upstate hospitals to maintain services in these areas they are often reliant on federal assistance to maintain quality of care. Schumer said this federal designation is vital to reducing the financial burden on hospitals so they have the support necessary to provide lifesaving care.


In 2015, CMS issued a new policy change without going through the proper notice and rulemaking required by law that would enact more restrictive eligibility definitions for the CAH program, costing rural hospitals millions. Schumer immediately began leading the fight to maintain CAH status for Upstate’s rural hospitals, sending multiple letters highlighting the issue and the impact it would have on rural residents, and personally called HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra to fix this bureaucratic mistake that would have threatened critical healthcare services for thousands of rural families. As a result of Schumer’s advocacy, CMS announced that it would propose to reverse this disastrous policy and clarify the language that would have caused New York’s CAH’s to lose their status, which was finalized in November 2022. The decision to undo the previous ruling that changed the guidelines was finalized and went into effect on January 1, 2023, allowing current hospitals to maintain their CAH status, and other hospitals, which were previously denied, to reapply for this designation to potentially receive millions in critical reimbursements.

After launching an all-out push in Upstate, NY in 2022, Schumer also successfully protected critical Medicare reimbursement programs in the end-of-year spending bill that were set to expire, which preserved millions in funding for Upstate’s most vulnerable hospitals. Schumer saved two key federal programs - the Low-Volume Hospital Program (LVH) and Medicare-Dependent Hospital (MDH) Program - which help provide support to many of Upstate’s most underserved hospitals. The MDH program provides additional funding to rural hospitals with large shares of Medicare patients or 100 or fewer beds if their costs exceed Medicare inpatient payments. Similarly, the LVH program provides financial support for smaller hospitals that see very few patients and are located more than 25 miles from the next nearest acute care hospital. These two programs are critical financial lifelines to hospitals serving these underserved areas, many of whom would shutter without the support.

The CAH designation was created by the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 to give small rural hospitals greater financial reimbursement for servicing Medicare and Medicaid patients, as well as provide other resources, in order to keep vulnerable rural hospitals financially stable. One factor for CAH eligibility requires that a hospital be a certain distance from another hospital by either a primary or secondary road and provide around-the-clock emergency services. Previously, CMS regulations stated that a CAH hospital must be at least 35 miles from the nearest hospital by “primary road”, defined as any road in an interstate system or a US-numbered highway, or at least 15 miles in areas with mountainous terrain or only “secondary roads”, defined to include single lane state routes.