The Medicare Dependent Hospital Program was created in 1990 and is one of several payment programs designed to help small, rural hospitals deal with financial challenges that larger hospitals don't face. The program is based on the idea that "some rural hospitals have such a high percentage of Medicare patients they are unable to get enough money from higher paying privately insured patients to make up for the lower government reimbursements," health lawyer Eric Zimmerman told Galewitz.
The program has come under scrutiny. Congress allowed it to expire in September 2012, but two senators from New York and Iowa made sure $100 million for the program made it into the budget deal. The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission said hospitals in the program will receive about 25 percent higher reimbursements as a result of the funding. (Read more) For a list of the hospitals in the program, click here.