A bipartisan group of congressional lawmakers from upstate New York on Thursday embraced a bill meant to aid rural hospitals struggling with a change in Medicare that has left them owing millions of dollars. 

At issue is a change in how hospitals were reimbursed under the Medicare program, and the retroactive change has left 16 small, rural hospitals in upstate New York owing between $15 million and $20 million to Medicare contractors, the lawmakers said. 

The measure addressing the change has the backing of Republican Reps. Claudia Tenney, John Katko, Tom Reed and Elise Stefanik as well as Democratic Rep. Antonio Delgado.

“This is fundamentally a question of fairness. Through absolutely no fault of their own, rural hospitals in New York now face a huge financial burden because of arbitrary and retroactive changes made in Washington," Tenney said. "This is placing significant strain on our rural hospitals at an already challenging time, which is why I'm fighting to stop it."

Hospital networks have struggled in recent years, and last year were strained amid the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in rural areas were facilities could be easily overwhelmed with a rise in patients. 

“Upstate families need access to more health care options — not less. Due to arbitrary federal changes, many small rural hospitals in upstate New York, including A.O. Fox in Oneonta, are facing a threat to keeping their doors open,” said Rep. Delgado. "I am proud to join this bipartisan effort to support our rural providers. Folks from every zip code deserve quality, convenient, and affordable health care options."