Members of Congress have introduced legislation with more than a half-dozen healthcare-friendly provisions aimed at improving access, boosting quality and adding a measure of financial stability for rural providers across the country.
Hospital groups such as the American Hospital Association and the Federation of American Hospitals said they back the Health Care Access and Rural Equity Act, or H-CARE, which could ultimately be attached to broader, must-pass legislation, like reauthorization of the State Childrens Health Insurance Program or a physician reimbursement bill.
As is, H-CARE would boost Medicare payments to rural health clinics, authorize up to $30 million annually in grant money to help pay for the implementation of health information technology, lend flexibility to the patient count for critical access hospitals and require federal payers to more quickly reimburse rural pharmacies.
The bill would also extend several expiring Medicare-adjustment payments, including for providers who practice in physician-scarce areas, rural ambulance providers, rural home health agencies and specific classes of rural hospitals.
Rep. John Peterson (R-Pa.), speaking at a news conference on Capitol Hill, told reporters that healthcare is the only business where the smallest providers get paid the least amount of money. It doesnt make sense, he said.
The bill is sponsored by Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.) and Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), the two are co-chairs of the House Rural Health Care Coalition. -- by Matthew DoBias