Sen. Dick Durbin
Dixon Mayor Liandro “Li” Arellano Jr. stands behind a movement to make sure rural areas of Illinois remain home to their own quality hospitals.
“Rural access to hospitals is a pretty important topic,” Arellano told the DeKalb Times. “One of the questions we always have is how things like Obamacare are interplaying with the broader health care systems to effect rural health care."
Late last month, Congressman Adam Kinzinger (R-Channahon) and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) penned a letter to Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex M. Azar urging him to declare several rural hospitals Critical Access Hospitals in the fight to keep them operating in the community.
Liandro “Li” Arellano Jr.
“We appreciate efforts by the Department of Health and Human Services to address rural healthcare access, workforce, and sustainability issues,” the letter outlined. “However, we are concerned that such activities alone will not mitigate the current challenges and risks of closure facing our most vulnerable rural hospitals. When rural hospitals close, they rarely reopen—and these communities are left with a crumbling local economy and without emergency room access. To deliver immediate relief to the most at-risk rural hospitals, we urge HHS to utilize its existing authority to provide, on a limited basis, the flexibility for vulnerable rural hospitals to claim Medicare Critical Access Hospital (CAH) status.”
Arellano admits he has some of those same concerns.
“Obviously, it gets challenging in something as heavily regulated as health care to figure out if every detail of what they’re doing is enough,” he said. “The big population centers like Chicago tend to get the most attention so I’m glad they’re at least looking at rural health care a little bit more.”
The two veteran lawmakers highlighted how over the last decade at least 110 rural hospitals have shuttered across the country, 11 of them coming this year alone. Congress created CAH designations more than two decades ago in response to a rash of rural hospital closures across the country.
"With the more nationalizing of health care and the bigger chains and HMOs, keeping the rural facilities is key," Arellano added. "I’m supportive of efforts to make sure rural areas have quality health care.”