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Legislative findings.

(1) The legislature declares that availability of health services to rural citizens is an issue on which a state policy is needed.
The legislature finds that changes in the demand for health care, in reimbursement polices [policies] of public and private purchasers, [and] in the economic and demographic conditions in rural areas threaten the availability of care services.
In addition, many factors inhibit needed changes in the delivery of health care services to rural areas which include inappropriate and outdated regulatory laws, aging and inefficient health care facilities, the absence of local planning and coordination of rural health care services, the lack of community understanding of the real costs and benefits of supporting rural hospitals, the lack of regional systems to assure access to care that cannot be provided in every community, and the absence of state health care policy objectives.
The legislature further finds that the creation of effective health care delivery systems that assure access to health care services provided in an affordable manner will depend on active local community involvement. It further finds that it is the duty of the state to create a regulatory environment and health care payment policy that promotes innovation at the local level to provide such care.
It further declares that it is the responsibility of the state to develop policy that provides direction to local communities with regard to such factors as a definition of health care services, identification of statewide health status outcomes, clarification of state, regional, [and] community responsibilities and interrelationships for assuring access to affordable health care and continued assurances that quality health care services are provided.
(2) The legislature further finds that many rural communities do not operate hospitals in a cost-efficient manner. The cost of operating the rural hospital often exceeds the revenues generated. Some of these hospitals face closure, which may result in the loss of health care services for the community. Many communities are struggling to retain health care services by operating a cost-efficient facility located in the community. Current regulatory laws do not provide for the facilities licensure option that is appropriate for rural areas. A major barrier to the development of an appropriate rural licensure model is federal medicare approval to guarantee reimbursement for the costs of providing care and operating the facility. Medicare certification typically elaborates upon state licensure requirements. Medicare approval of reimbursement is more likely if the state has developed legal criteria for a rural-appropriate health facility. Medicare has begun negotiations with other states facing similar problems to develop exceptions with the goal of allowing reimbursement of rural alternative health care facilities. It is in the best interests of rural citizens for Washington state to begin negotiations with the federal government with the objective of designing a medicare eligible rural health care facility structured to meet the health care needs of rural Washington and be eligible for federal and state financial support for its development and operation.
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