June 2005

What is a Critical Access Hospital?

A hospital must meet the following criteria to be designated as a critical access hospital by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services:
  • Located in a rural area.
  • Provides 24-hour emergency care services.
  • Average length of stay of 96 hours or less.
  • More than 35 miles from a hospital or another critical access hospital (more than 15 miles in areas with mountainous terrain or only secondary roads). Or, certified by the state as a “necessary provider” of health care services to the area (the “necessary provider” provision will be eliminated on January 1, 2006).
  • Up to 25 acute care beds, or a combination of acute care and swing beds (beds used for acute care at some times, and for post-acute care at other times).