Center for Rural Health


The Center for Rural Health is a department within the Georgia Hospital Association that represents the interests of Georgia's small rural hospitals, which we define as an acute care or critical access hospital that meets one of the following criteria: 

  • an average daily (inpatient) census of 75 or fewer and located in a county with a population of 75,000 people or fewer
  • or, designated critical access hospitals (CAH)
There are 74 hospital members of the Center for Rural Health.

The Center for Rural Health is governed by a board of trustees comprised of 11 small rural hospital CEOs, the president of GHA (ex-officio), and the executive director of The Center for Rural Health.  The executive director has dual reporting responsibilities to GHA executive leadership as well as the governing board of the Center.

The Mission of the Center for Rural Health is to represent the needs of Georgia’s small and rural hospitals in a manner that promotes accessibility to high quality and cost-efficient health care and to act as a central agency for the study, discussion, resolution, and dissemination of ideas and information that addresses problems faced by small and rural hospitals.

2020 Center for Rural Health Virtual Meeting

2020 Center for Rural Health Annual In-person meeting has been canceled. However, the pandemic will not stop us. Please plan to join us for the first ever virtual meeting Aug. 19-21. Please click here for more information.

Editorial: Celebrating Rural Health Care 

By GHA President Earl Rogers

A recent article reports that nearly 1 in 5 Americans lives in a rural community. Rural America is the backbone of this country; however, many rural communities lack easy access to a hospital. In Georgia, Governor Kemp and the state legislature are committed to making Georgia a leader in rural health care. From the very successful adoption of the Rural Hospital Tax Credit Program to the establishment of the House Rural Development Council and telemedicine initiatives, to physician recruitment, Georgia hospitals are in a better place than even five years ago.

Nov. 19 is National Rural Health Day. On behalf of our Board Chair and longtime rural health care executive, Kevin Bierschenk, GHA extends sincere gratitude to every rural hospital and health care worker. The GHA Center for Rural Health includes 74 member hospitals, which represent nearly half the GHA membership. Like the Governor, his staff, and the legislature, GHA is committed to advancing rural health care. I find it only fitting that National Rural Health Day is celebrated so close to Thanksgiving. I am sure many Georgians will give thanks this holiday season for their local, rural hospital and all the caregivers who provide excellent care to their families. 

Critical Access Hospitals

Year-End Celebrating Our Success 09-07-16

Legislation enacted as part of the Balanced Budget Act (BBA) of 1997 authorized States to establish a State FLEX Program under which certain facilities participating in Medicare can become CAHS.  The following providers may be eligible to become CAHs:

  • currently participating Medicare hospitals;
  • hospitals that ceased operation after 11/29/1989; or
  • health clinics or centers (as defined by the State) that previously operated as a hospital before being downsized to a health clinic or center

For more information, click here

Hospital Leadership Training Program

GHA and Georgia Southern University (GSU) has partnered to provide state-mandated educational training for hospital executives and board members. Click here for more information.

Rural Hospital Tax Credit Resources

Georgia Heart Hospital Program - Employee Giving Guide

Payroll Deduction Calculator (password protected)
Department of Revenue Proposed Contribution Timeline
Center for Rural Health Rural Hospital Tax Credit Program Eligibility Keri Conley, Associate General Counsel & Carie Summers, VP Healthcare Financing, Georgia Hospital Association
Eligibility Flow Chart for SB 258- Rural Hospital Tax Credit Program
Grassroots Fundraising - Patti Lyons, Executive Partner, Pride Philanthropy
Rural Hospital Tax Credit: Legal Considerations - Sarah F. Kuipers, Morris, Manning & Martin, LLP
Tax and Record Keeping for SB 258 - Jim Creamer, Partner & Bert Bennett, Partner, Draffin & Tucker
Georgia Rural Hospital Tax Credit Program (SB 258) - Audio File - C. Bert Bennett, Partner, Draffin & Tucker

Rural Legislative Updates

Chuck Adams Editorial

Many of us never think of a hospital until we need one. But when a family member or friend has a medical issue, we expect high-quality, affordable care close to home.

Access to care has become difficult for many communities with the unfortunate closure of seven rural hospitals since early 2013. This represents a loss of almost 10 percent of all rural hospitals in Georgia. These closures, coupled with the fact that many others have had to reduce services, mean many patients must travel great distances to receive care.

Losing even more of our rural facilities would be detrimental to the state of Georgia. Thankfully, our lawmakers realize the importance of hospitals in a community and went to work to help make Georgia a leader in rural health care. During the 2016 General Assembly, the state legislature passed the Rural Hospital Tax Credit Program, which has provided a remarkable opportunity for Georgia’s rural hospitals. Legislative improvements made in 2018 such as making the tax credit equal to the amount donated resulted in the program being an overwhelming success for hospitals and taxpayers. Millions of dollars have been donated to our hospitals, helping them provide better access to care, make important infrastructure upgrades, and improve facilities that will directly benefit the hospitals.

The hospital tax program is a win-win for hospitals as well as the patients they serve. The program awards state income tax credits to individuals and corporate taxpayers who contribute to the 58 qualified rural hospital organizations (RHO) in Georgia. According to Georgia HEART (Helping Enhance Access to Rural Treatment), from 2018 through 2021, Georgia taxpayers can access a maximum of $60 million of RHO tax credits each year. The General Assembly placed limits on individuals and corporations to ensure that as many Georgians as possible could support rural hospitals. The 2018 cap was met within days of the legislative effective date, illustrating the fact that communities all over Georgia recognize the importance of rural hospitals and the care they provide. More than 90 percent of all donations came from individuals. 

It is no secret that hospitals are important to their communities. Beyond caring for the sick and injured, in many regions, hospitals are the largest employer. This is especially true in rural areas. The latest Georgia Hospital Association Economic Impact Report indicates our hospitals have made a $49 billion impact on the economy, with rural hospitals accounting for over $5.5 billion of the total. Rural hospitals provide almost 30,000 full time jobs and support almost 70,000 jobs in their respective communities. 

The Georgia Hospital Association encourages all Georgians and corporations to consider donating in 2019 to receive this tax credit. Please contact your local hospital or to find out how you can support these vital community resources.