Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) has instructed his Washington staff not to attend any more meetings of the House-Senate conference committee drafting a final Medicare reform bill, an aide to Grassley confirmed today. Committee staff leaders haven't put "noncontroversial" rural healthcare issues on the agenda for discussion during the August recess, according to the aide. Grassley's staff will continue to boycott meetings until House staff members bring rural provisions into the discussion, the aide said. A spokeswoman for Rep. Bill Thomas (R-Calif.) said Grassley hasn't spoken to Thomas about his concerns and called the boycott "a little bizarre." A committee agenda for this week, provided by the House Ways and Means Committee, includes rural issues such as reimbursement for critical-access hospitals, but it wasn't clear if such matters have been addressed. Yesterday's committee meeting was the first this month that Grassley staff members haven't attended, sources said. -- by Jeff Tieman
Grassley boycotts Medicare panel over rural issues
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