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.

The Dangers of Medicare and Medicaid Cuts as Part of a Deficit Reduction Plan

Much has been made in the recent weeks of the impending need to raise the statutorily allowed debt limit for the United States government so as to avoid defaulting on its commitments or shutting down Federal Agencies.  One of the most popular demands made for a debt increase is cutting expenditures in the Medicare and Medicaid programs. Of the many dangers of cutting Medicare and Medicaid to the rural safety net, the most glaring are a loss of access to care for rural Americans and increasing...

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The Move to Meaningful Use

As part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) facilities that meet certain Health IT goals on the road to a fully integrated Electronic Health Record (EHR) are eligible, for a limited number of years, for bonus payments for quick adaptation of EHRs. If, after a number of years, facilities continue to avoid adoption of Health IT and EHRs, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will begin withholding portions of the facilities' Medicare reimbursements. In March of 2010, NRHA provided...

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NRHA supports Border Health Security Act

The National Rural Health Association supports Congressman Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas) introducing the Border Health Security Act this morning. Reyes is chair of the Border Health Caucus and made this announcement at the 6th Annual Border Health Conference on Capitol Hill, attended by NRHA staff and members. The bill includes provisions for providing infectious disease surveillance grants, improves border health services, strengthens the U.S.-Mexico Border Health Commission and includes a...

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ACOs Continue to be a Major Focus

On June 3, 2011 NRHA submitted comments relating to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) newly released Accountable Care Organizations (ACO) regulation.  Since the close of the comment period on June 6, many news organizations have begun reporting on the viability of the program and its place in entitlement reform.  Among those reporting on the developments are the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post. NRHA's comment is available here.  Please contact NRHA government...

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Capitol Hill Watch for Week of June 20

Both Houses of Congress remain in session this week.  The House of Representatives is scheduled to be in recess again starting June 27.  They will return on July 5.  The Senate will be in session until July 4 and then recess for the following week.  Congressional leaders usually return home during these periods. This provides ample opportunities for you to speak with them in their state and district offices or at town hall meetings.  Information about your individual Senators and...

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Deadline Approaches for 340B Program Conference

Only a month from now the 15th Annual Conference on Improving Access to Pharmaceutical Care and Ensuring Compliance with Federal and State Laws will take place.  The conference will run from July 11th-13th in Washington, DC. Similar to years past, a number of 340B experts from the Office of Pharmacy Affairs, SNHPA, Apexus/340B Prime Vendor Program and HRSA’s Pharmacy Services Support Center are scheduled to discuss the strength, evolution and challenges to the program. Many other political...

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Capitol Hill Watch for Week of June 13

Both Houses of Congress return to session this week following a one week recess for the House of Representatives.  The House will vote Monday on the first appropriations bill for FY 2012, the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2012. Following the votes tonight, the House will begin consideration of the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2012.  NRHA policy relating to the "Farm...

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NRHA applauds creation of White House Rural Council, pleased rural health is priority

Today, the Obama Administration established the first White House Rural Council and named access to affordable health care among the council’s top priorities. NRHA is pleased the White House is focused on improving the lives of the 62 million Americans who call rural home. U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will chair the new advisory team working toward bettering the economic outlook and quality of life for rural residents. The council will make recommendations for investment in rural...

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CMS to Delay Start of "Pioneer" ACO Demonstration

In response to concern about the plausibility of the current ACO structure, CMS has released two alternatives and one help session for those interested in pursuing the concept but were unhappy with the current structure.  The most "ground ready" program is the "Pioneer" model designed to provide higher incentives, and higher risks, to those whose systems are already integrated and can hit the ground running faster.  Many organizations, though, have indicated that they will not be ready to...

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NRHA Submits Comments to CMS on ACO Proposed Regulation

On Friday, the National Rural Health Association submitted its comments to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) on the proposed final rule relating to "Accountable Care Organizations" and the Medicare Shared Savings Program.  Mandated by the Affordable Care Act, ACOs are intended to produce significant savings for the Medicare program.  An ACO is an integrated organization that endeavors to produce higher quality care through coordination and communication while reducing costs...

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