Congress helped rural providers in the Medicare reform law, but now President Bush would take away from rural healthcare under his 2005 budget request. The budget blueprint Bush sent Congress Monday would take a 70% bite out of rural health programs administered by the Health Resources and Services Administration of HHS and would represent "the largest reductions to rural programs in more than 10 years," according to the National Rural Health Association. Specifically, Bush's budget proposal would chop rural health outreach grants to $11 million in fiscal 2005 from $40 million in 2004 and eliminate the Rural Hospital Flexibility Grant Program and all HRSA funding for public health improvement projects. The federal government will spend an estimated $372 million on such projects in fiscal 2004. The proposed cuts have rural providers -- which won a number of concessions in the Medicare reform law -- preparing for another fight. At deadline, HHS officials had not responded to a request for comment. -- by Jeff Tieman
Rural health funds would shrink under Bush budget
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