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.

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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President Obama’s deficit proposal puts rural hospitals at risk

Rural patients access to care is in jeopardy. Today President Obama called for $6 billion in cuts over 10 years to rural hospitals, claiming that the proposal eliminates “higher than necessary reimbursement.” Higher than necessary reimbursement? Currently, 41 percent of small rural hospitals, known as critical access hospitals (CAHs), operate at a financial loss. If the President’s proposal to cut billions in Medicare reimbursements hits these facilities, over half of CAHs would lose...

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Rival rural hospitals become EHR partners for patients

Competition is tough in Texas. And in four small West Texas towns within 25 miles of each other, rivalries are real. “You’ve heard of ‘Friday Night Lights,’” explains Rick DeFoore, CEO of Stamford Memorial Hospital, referring to a book, film and TV drama about high school football. “Two of these towns are fierce sports rivals, and you would think, ‘So what?’ But I promise you, it affects everything out here.” Money-saving water agreements...

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Appropriations Committees back to work

The Senate and House Appropriations Committees resumed their work last week on outlays for fiscal year 2012. With the new fiscal year less than three weeks away, appropriators are also debating legislation that would continue funding the government after Sept. 30, and avoid a shutdown as “omnibus” spending bills are not expected to be completed by that date. Appropriators are expected to recommend a six week “continuing resolution” to fund the government through mid-November. Both the...

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NRHA warns Capitol Hill about modifying rural hospital programs

NRHA sent the following communication to Capitol Hill offices this morning. Please contact NRHA Government Affairs at (202) 639-0550 with any questions. "Elimination of rural hospital designations will annihilate the rural health care safety net and access to care in rural America.  Recent recommendations to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction erroneously claim that these designations and their accompanying payment formulas discourage efficiency and value in health care.  This...

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HHS Awards $11.9 Million for Rural Health IT

The Department of Health and Human Services announced late last week that it would be awarding 40 facilities $300,000 each for Health IT development.  The awards, totaling $11.9 million, will be used to purchase hardware, software, and to train staff. In announcing the awards, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said, "We need health information technology to bring our healthcare system into the 21st century.  These funds will help safety net providers acquire state-of-the-art health...

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