Critical Access Hospital

Definition – A small, generally geographically remote facility that provides outpatient and inpatient hospital services to people in rural areas. In 2011 there were 1327 Critical Access Hospitals in the US, 38 in WA, and 2 in King Co. (Enumclaw and Snoqualmie Valley). These hospitals are designated by the State and certified by Medicare.

The Critical Access Hospital Program was created in 1997 by the Federal government as a safety net device, to assure Medicare beneficiaries access to health care services in rural areas. It was designed to allow more flexible staffing options relative to community need, simplify billing methods and create incentives to develop local integrated health delivery systems, including acute, primary, emergency, and long-term care. No more than 25 acute care beds are allowed at any one time. Any of the 25 beds can be used to provide acute or sub-acute care (Swing Beds) dependent on patient need.