What is a Critical Access Hospital (CAH)?
by Sublette County Rural Health Care District
September 22, 2014
The History behind Critical Access Hospitals
Critical Access Hospitals became popular in rural areas after legislation was enacted in 1997. The purpose of this legislation was to strengthen rural health care and provide access to needed services in rural areas. With almost one fifth of the US population living in rural areas, Critical Access Hospitals have provided vital services in rural areas across the country. The state of Wyoming is not exempt. Wyoming is home to sixteen Critical Access Hospitals. They exist in communities such as Basin, Lusk, Cody, Lovell, Wheatland and Afton. Sublette County is the only county in Wyoming without hospital services.
What is a CAH?
A Critical Access Hospital is a Medicare-participating hospital that meets special criteria to be designated as a CAH.
That criterion includes:
• Must be located more than 35 miles from any hospital or another CAH
• Must furnish 24-hour emergency care services
• Has 4 – 25 inpatient beds
• Annual average length of stay of 96 hours or less
With this limited size and short length of stay, most CAHs focus on providing care for common conditions and outpatient care, while referring other, more critical or acute conditions to larger hospitals.
What are the Benefits of having a CAH in Sublette County?
Since the development of CAHs in the late nineties, rural communities and health care facilities alike have experienced the benefits of having a Critical Access Hospital designation. These benefits include a greater focus on community needs and keeping healthcare close to home, networking with acute care hospitals for support with emergent and critical care, access to grant monies made available through rural health care legislation, opportunity for cost-based reimbursement from Medicare which has the potential to increase revenue, enhanced quality of care as Critical Access Hospitals need to meet certain licensing and survey requirements to operate and lastly, opportunity for increased jobs in the community which as the potential increase the community’s tax base.
With Sublette County being the lone county in Wyoming without these benefits, the Rural Health Care District is exploring the possibility of having a community Critical Access Hospital in addition to our current clinics and services in Pinedale and Marbleton/Big Piney.
To learn more about Critical Access Hospitals, go to: