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.

Fiscal Year 2012 Appropriations Conference Report Released

Congressional leaders announced an agreement late Thursday night that will fund the federal government for the rest of fiscal year (FY) 2012.  The agreement falls in line with the budgetary caps created by the Budget Control Act of 2011 and includes spending levels for nine of the twelve annual appropriations bills.  The other three spending bills were agreed to prior to this agreement. The agreement, known as the "Conference Report" includes a $2 million dollar increase for the "Rural and...

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House of Representatives Votes on H.R. 3630

Tonight the House of Representatives passed H.R. 3630, the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2011, by a vote of 234-193. Despite the fact that the bill included an important two-year delay in steep cuts to the Medicare physician reimbursement rate, NRHA strongly opposed H.R. 3630 and believes the bill will be detrimental to the fragile rural health care safety net.  Specifically, the bill does not include many of the critically important expiring rural Medicare “extenders...

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President vows to veto proposed legislation

On Tuesday afternoon President Obama announced that he would veto HR 3630, the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2011 if it is passed by both chambers of Congress.  This bill, proposed by chairmen of various House committees, would have updated the sustainable growth rate, extended some rural Medicare "extenders" and reauthorize expiring tax provisions. The legislation failed to include the following, expiring provisions: Outpatient Hospital Hold Harmless Provisions: Small...

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Ask your Member of Congress to protect rural providers by extending vital payment programs

Recently proposed legislation aimed at updating the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR)(HR 3630) left out a number of vital rural Medicare “extenders.”  These "extenders" gained broad bipartisan support in the 111th Congress (PL 111-309) and are vital to ensuring that rural hospitals, doctors and other professionals can provide needed emergency and primary care.  If congressional action is not taken, these vital programs will expire at the end of December 2011.  Their expiration will inhibit the...

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NPR on CAHs: an overlooked perspective

The Dec. 8 NPR piece produced by Kaiser Health News (KHN) didn't report that Medicare costs are lower for rural patients than their urban counterparts. Medicare spends 4.5% less per beneficiary for rural residents compared to those living in urban areas, according to a recent Stroudwater report which used 2008 Dartmouth Atlas data. The value that rural providers (including Hood Memorial Hospital in Amite, La.) bring to the Medicare program is evident, even including alternative payment...

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NRHA asks Congress to stand up for rural providers by extending vital payment programs

Recently proposed legislation aimed at updating the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) will harm rural providers by failing to include a number of vital rural health "extenders" and by reducing other payments to vital rural facilities such as Rural Health Clinics (RHCs), Federally Qualifying Health Centers (FQHCs), Critical Access Hospitals (CAHs) and other rural hospitals. These "extenders" gained broad bipartisan support in the 111th Congress (PL 111-309) and are vital to ensuring that rural...

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NRHA Advocates Extension of Rural Medicare "Extenders"

In recognition of the challenges that rural hospital, physicians, other practitioners, emergency medical services, and patients face in accessing and delivering primary and emergency care Congress has enacted a number of programs that help rural providers meet their distinct challenges. Many of these programs and payment adjustments, though, are not permanent and many are set to expire at the end of 2011.  These payment adjustments are vital to ensuring the ongoing stability and health of...

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Today at NRHA: Former Census Bureau chief outlines how changing demographics impact health care

Former U.S. Census Bureau Director Steve Murdock, PhD, kicked off the National Rural Health Association’s 17th Annual Rural Multiracial and Multicultural Health Conference in Daytona Beach this morning. He discussed the socioeconomic implications of the country’s changing demographics, and said “we have markedly increased inequality in America.” “Education is, of course, the answer,” Murdock told conference participants. “Some people you deal with are poorer than they used to be, and...

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This World AIDS Day, NRHA looks back at 30 years of HIV/AIDS and ahead at how 4 rural programs are reducing stigma

NRHA’s Rural Roads magazine asked rural providers, educators and researchers how treatment, prevention and perception of the disease have changed over three decades. “Men and women are now infected, and it’s become more of a disease of color, affecting more blacks and Latinos,” says NRHA member Pamela Payne-Foster, MD. “And cities over 500,000 get most of the prevention dollars, but more attention needs to be paid to the rural South. Stats show the epidemic is spreading in the rural South...

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NRHA gives congressional staff Rural Health Care 101

The National Rural Health Association gave an overview of the importance of the rural health safety net to about 20 Senate offices today during Rural Health Care 101, part of an initiative by the Senate Rural Health Caucus to educate office and committee staff. Maggie Elehwany, Vice President of Government Affairs, explained how critical the health care safety net is to providing access to health care for rural Americans and the rural community. The rural health care safety net is...

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