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Peters Announces Legislation to Support Rural Hospitals and Help Prevent Emergency Room Closures

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI) introduced legislation to expand Michiganders’ access to critical health care services and help prevent rural emergency room closures. The bill seeks to make health care facilities that have been designated as a Rural Emergency Hospital (REH) eligible for the 340B drug discount program, which would help to lower operating costs for hospitals who experience financial difficulties that could impact operations. Peters’ bill comes in response to the closure of Ontonagon County’s only hospital, which opted to discontinue hospital services entirely and transition into a rural health clinic.

“I’m extremely concerned about the closure of the Ontonagon Hospital, which has significantly limited access to health care services in the county. No matter where you live in our state, Michiganders should be able to count on life-saving emergency and outpatient care being available when they need it most,” said Senator Peters. “This commonsense legislation will allow our rural hospitals to take full advantage of the Rural Emergency Hospital program while maintaining 340B status, which will help ensure our hospitals can continue to provide essential care to people living in rural areas.”

The Rural Emergency Hospitals (REHs) program was created in 2020 to help provide rural and critical access hospitals with financial support and increased Medicare reimbursements if they maintain 24-hour emergency rooms, observation beds, and other key health services. However, REHs are not currently eligible for the 340B drug discount program, which provides rural hospitals and health clinics with discounted prescription drugs. Nearly 90 health care providers across Michigan rely on 340B revenue to remain operational. Peters’ Rural 340B Access Act addresses this issue by eliminating eligibility criteria that prohibits REHs from participating in the 340B drug discount program.

Peters’ legislation is supported by the National Rural Health Association, the Michigan Health & Hospital Association, and the American Hospital Association.

Peters has previously supported efforts to expand access to health care across Michigan. In 2023, his bipartisan provision to expand access to opioid addiction treatment for adolescents advanced in the Senate. Last year, Peters also introduced bipartisan legislation that would reduce health care costs for individuals at risk for diabetes and extend Medicare coverage for medical nutrition therapy services to Americans with pre-diabetes.