NRHA's Rural Health Voices blog offers informed commentary on the latest news in rural health care from NRHA staff and editorials from selected contributors.

Rural health impact of various deficit reduction proposals

The Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA) calls for $1.2-$1.5 trillion reduction in federal expenditures over the next ten years.  A “Super-Committee” has been formed and tasked with developing the policies that will produce these reductions.  Rural hospitals have been targeted in various proposals to the Super-Committee and to Congress as a whole. The specific payment reductions advocated by each proposal vary and a number of groups have put forward various ideas.  Proposals include: The...

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Improving rural hospital financial and operational performance

As a member of the Flex Monitoring Team, Mark Holmes, PhD, surveyed and interviewed critical access hospital (CAH) administrators on strategies that improved their hospitals’ financial and operational performance. The University of North Carolina Rural Health Research and Policy Analysis Center director shared some of the successful initiatives with 650 NRHA members as part of the association’s 10thannual CAH Conference on Friday in Kansas City, Mo. [caption id="attachment...

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Obama Administration asks Supreme Court to review the "Individual Mandate"

Earlier this week the Obama administration asked the Supreme Court to review a decision by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals that ruled the "Individual Mandate" was an unconstitutional use of the "Commerce Clause".  The mandate requires individuals to purchase health coverage in attempt to curb the growth in costs to hospitals, providers, and the government. The government argues that this a proper use of the clause that would end cost-shifting caused by uninsured patients who can't afford to...

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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Announce Community Transformation Grant Awards

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced grantees of some funds in the  "Community Transformation Grant" program earlier this week.  A total of $103 million was given to 61 grantees including state, local, and tribal governments.  Grantees are tasked with addressing 1) tobacco-free living; 2) active living and healthy eating; and 3) evidence-based quality clinical and other preventive services, specifically prevention and control of high blood pressure and high...

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Physician facts offered during Rural Health Clinic conference

NRHA's conference designed exclusively for rural health clinic leaders kicked off today in Kansas City, Mo. Craig Hunter told administrators it's vital that they track patient satisfaction. On recruiting, he said: "Doctors want to walk into an environment that already has electronic records and where patient demand is already pent up. Your contracts need to set the expectation that the doctor needs to grow the practice too." Hunter also surprised some conference participants with...

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Senate releases Labor-HHS appropriations report

The Senate Appropriations Committee released its fiscal year 2012 Labor-HHS report. The funding for many rural health care safety net programs is similar to fiscal year 2011 levels. The Committee provides $10.1 million for State Offices of Rural Health, the same as the fiscal year 2011 comparable level. The State Offices of Rural Health program helps states strengthen rural health care delivery systems by allowing them to better coordinate care and improve support and outreach in rural...

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NRHA testimony on expiring Medicare provider payment policies

Yesterday, NRHA submitted testimony to the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health concerning expiring Medicare provider payments for rural facilities: "The National Rural Health Association (NRHA) thanks the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health for the opportunity to submit testimony. NRHA is pleased to detail to the committee the importance of several of the expiring Medicare payment policies to rural patients and providers. "NRHA is a nonprofit membership...

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NRHA submits testimony to protect Medicare payments for rural providers

Today NRHA submitted testimony to the House Ways and Means Committee Subcommittee on Health about various expiring Medicare provider payments.  The extension of these provisions is vital to the rural health care safety net. A number of Medicare provider payment policies are set to expire on or before December 31, 2011. Today’s hearing focused on the impact these provisions have on health care providers. Provisions expected to expire include Geographic Practice Cost Indices (GPCIs), mental...

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Senate Labor-HHS-Ed Appropriations bill marked by subcommittee; learn about Open Enrollment

The Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee met today and completed its markup. The press release is now available here and audio of the meeting is available here. The fiscal year 2012 bill provides HHS $70.18 billion in discretionary program level funding, a 0.3 percent reduction from FY 2011. Highlights of the bill include $280 million of the $1 billion available in the Prevention and Public Health Fund to support Community...

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President Obama’s call to reduce reimbursement payments for Critical Access Hospitals

Yesterday, President Obama called for the reduction of payments to Critical Access Hospitals (CAHs) and to eliminate the CAH designation for those fewer than 10 miles from the nearest hospital to “better align payment to rural providers with the cost of care.” Currently, 41% of CAHs operate at a financial loss.  Without Medicare reimbursements, over half of CAHs would lose money.  Such devastating cuts will cause rural hospital doors to close, resulting in loss of access to health care and...

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