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.

Negotiated Rulemaking

This week, I am once again participating in the HRSA Negotiated Rulemaking Committee that is reconsidering how the Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA) and Medically Underserved Area (MUA) designations are constructed. The Negotiated Rulemaking committee was mandated by the 2010 Affordable Care Act. These methods (HPSA and MUA) are used to designate areas eligible for Federal resources such as National Health Service Corps Physicians, Community Health Centers, and a Medicare...

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One-Fifth of the U.S. Population Has No Doctor or Other Usual Source of Medical Care

Roughly 60 million people—1 in 5 Americans—have no usual source of medical care, such as a family doctor or clinic, according to the latest News and Numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). The report noted that some 29 percent of people with no health insurance cited high cost as their main reason for not having a usual source of care, compared to 16 percent of people with public insurance and 4 percent of those with private health insurance. NRHA's Expanding...

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EMR's Not Always Linked to Better Care in Hospitals

A Rand Corporation report released Dec. 25, 2010 indicates that the use of EMR's in a hospital does not guarantee better quality care. "One expected benefit of electronic health records is improved quality of care. But most of the current knowledge about the relationship between health information technology and quality comes from a few hospitals that may not be representative, such as large teaching hospitals or hospitals that were among the first to adopt electronic health records," says...

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Registration Opens Jan. 3 for EHR Incentive Program

CMS and HHS just announced that Registration for Hospitals and Clinics to participate in the HITECH incentive program to implement EHRs opens January 3, 2011.

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Senate Releases Omnibus Spending Package

The Senate has released its Omnibus spending bill, legislation that includes funding for multiple government agencies grouped into one package.  The legislation, which would provide $174.5 billion in discretionary funding,  is expected to come to the Senate floor this week, and it remains to be seen whether or not Senate leadership will secure the 60 votes needed to eliminate the possibility of a filibuster. For a summary of the HHS-related provisions, please click here. For the...

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Net Neutrality and Rural Health

Though the National Rural Health Association does not currently have official policy on the issue of Net Neutrality, the rising need to understand the driving factors behind health IT and broadband as it relates to the delivery of health services in rural America warrants at a minimum its initial discussion. For a little background, Net Neutrality advocates argue that every similar piece of information transferred via the internet should be available to each consumer at the same price and...

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Update: Congress Passes Doc Fix, House Sends Appropriations Bill to Senate

SGR: After the Senate passed its fix lat night to the sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula to stave off Medicare physician payment cuts, the House today voted 409-2 to confirm the legislation.  So, the SGR fix, or "doc-fix" will be extended for one year until January 1, 2012. Also included in the bill was an extension of otherwise expiring Medicare payment programs, known as Medicare "extenders."  Most of these extenders, the full list of which were included in...

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"Doc-Fix" Agreement Reached in Congress

The Senate has released its plan to address the potential 25 percent Medicare physician payment cut via the sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula.  The Doc-Fix, as it is commonly referred to, will be extended for one year until December 31, 2011 under the plan.  Senate Democrats and Republicans have agreed to use a tax provision in the health reform law to offset, or pay for, its cost, so a unanimous consent agreement is expected on the Senate floor rather than a full vote. ...

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340B Article in NY Times

The NY Times pubished an article yesterday, Dec. 7, 2010, entitled "Children's Hospitals Lose some Drug Discounts." NRHA is a member of the 340B Coalition, fighting for corrections to the law passed earlier in 2010 which created the problems described in the story. Please share your experiences with 340B, good or bad, in order to assist our coalition in its effort to get needed corrections.

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By the Numbers: Rural Emergency Department Usage

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) reported recently that Emergency Department (ED) usage was 39 percent higher for Americans living in rural areas compared to those living in urban areas (515 visits versus 372 visits per 1,000 adults). Well over half of these vists are typically non-emergent. It points to the need for primary care expansion in rural America.  In the mean time, hospital ED's in rural and frontier areas of our country are treasured assets that need protection.

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