Senators introduce bipartisan CAH Relief Act

The National Rural Health Association applauds Sens. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and John Tester (D-Mont.) for introducing the Critical Access Hospital Relief Act this week.

The bill will align critical access hospitals (CAHs) condition of payment with their conditions of participation by removing a hard-hours-cap on patient stays.

CMS currently requires a physician to certify each patient is expected to be discharged or transferred under a 96 hard-hour-cap as part of a CAH’s “condition of payment.”

The Critical Access Hospital Relief Act will ensure that payment policy does not override the congressionally approved conditions of participation and set a new de facto standard for care available in CAHs.

Continued cuts in hospital payments have taken their toll, forcing far too many closures and leaving many of our nation’s most vulnerable populations without timely access to care.

Since 2010, 47 rural hospitals have closed, more than in the previous 10 years combined. And 283 more are on the brink of closure threatening access to 700,000 rural patients.

Roberts will speak about his bill during NRHA’s 26th annual Rural Health Policy Institute next week in D.C. Critical Access Hospital Relief Act cosponsor Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) will also present at the nation’s largest rural advocacy event.

NRHA applauds senators’ efforts to increase veteran employment

NRHA recently sent a letter to Sens. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) thanking them for introducing the Veterans to Paramedics Transition Act and their leadership in this critical area. The bill will streamline civilian paramedic training for veterans who gained emergency medical experience as a result of their military service, making it easier to secure jobs as paramedics.

Far too many rural communities have critical shortages of trained emergency personnel.

At the same time, these communities are home to thousands of men and women who received emergency medical training while serving in the military. Yet, when they return, this military training and experience does not count toward training and certification as civilian paramedics.

This legislation goes far in accelerating and streamlining the transition to civilian employment for returning veterans, allowing them to continue to serve their communities in a new and needed capacity.

NRHA honors congressional rural health champions

The National Rural Health Association, in conjunction with its 26th annual Rural Health Policy Institute, is pleased to announce the winners of its 2015 Legislative Awards, which recognize outstanding leadership in rural health issues by both members of Congress and congressional staff.

This year’s member recipients are Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.) and Rep. Adrian Smith (R-Neb.).

Rep. Kind will accept his award and speak to more than 400 rural health advocates next week at NRHA’s Policy Institute Feb. 3-5 in D.C.

Staff awards will be presented to Brian Perkins of the Office of Sen. Jerry Moran and Colin Brainard of the Office of Rep. Lynn Jenkins.

“NRHA greatly appreciates the hard work and dedication displayed by this year’s Legislative Award winners,” says Maggie Elehwany, NRHA government affairs and advocacy vice president.

President Obama delivers State of the Union

President Obama is delivering his second to last State of the Union this evening, touting that 10 million uninsured Americans now have health insurance, that health care inflation is at its lowest rate in fifty years and his launch of a Precision Medicine Initiative to cure diseases.

The full text of the speech can be found here.

Following the State of the Union, the president is expected to release the budget in about two weeks. Stay tuned to this blog for the latest appropriations news.

Learn more about the White House’s initiatives by meeting with the Obama administration, as well as the 114th congressional members and national experts at NRHA’s 26th annual Rural Health Policy Institute Feb. 3-5 in D.C. Register here today.

Tavenner resigns from CMS

Marilyn Tavenner, the Administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, is stepping down next month. In her role as administrator, Tavenner oversaw the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.  She will be replaced on an interim basis by Andrew Slavitt, the Principal Deputy Administrator at CMS.

Prior to CMS, Tavenner was the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Secretary of Health and Human Resources under former Governor Tim Kaine. She began her career working as a nurse in Richmond, Va.

Rural Americans see high insurance premiums

Rural Americans are seeing the highest premiums through insurance marketplaces created by the Affordable Care Act, according to a new study released by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The top ten highest premiums include Alaska ($488), Wyoming ($440), rural Nevada ($418) and inland California ($410). Ithaca, N.Y. ($459) and Bay St. Louis, Miss. ($456) were the two highest cities.  The lowest premiums were in Phoenix, Ariz. ($166), Albuquerque, N.M. ($167) and Louisville, Ky. ($167).

The Kaiser Family Foundation found that the national premium for a 40-year-old is $269.

The full report can be found here.

Learn the latest news about the Affordable Care Act, and meet with the Obama administration, the 114th congressional members and national experts at NRHA’s 26th annual Rural Health Policy Institute Feb. 3-5 in D.C. Register here today.


Critical Access Hospital Relief Act Introduced

Representatives Adrian Smith (R-NE), Greg Walden (R-OR), David Loebsack (D-IA) and Todd Young (R-IN) have introduced the H.R. 169, the Critical Access Hospital Relief Act. This bill would eliminate the current Condition of Payment requirement that physicians at Critical Access Hospitals certify, at the time of admission, that Medicare and Medicaid patients will not be at the facility for more than 96 hours. This important legislation will go far in helping alleviate unnecessary red-tape for Critical Access Hospitals throughout the nation.  NRHA commends these rural health champions for their leadership and encourages Congress to act quickly to pass this legislation.

114th congress convenes

Today marks the first day that the 114th Congress takes office. Republicans control both chambers for the first time in eight years.

As members of Congress begin work, so does our work at the National Rural Health Association. Last year, rural health care faced its greatest challenge:  Forty-three rural hospitals have closed; 283 more are on the brink of closure.  Continued cuts in hospital payments have taken their toll, forcing far too many closures and leaving some of our nation’s most vulnerable populations without timely access to care.

What can the new Congress do to protect the 20 million rural Americans dependent on these rural hospitals for care? Stop the hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts to rural hospitals and providers.

Urge members of Congress to protect the rural health care safety net. Don’t miss the chance to meet with the Obama administration, the 114th congressional members and national experts at NRHA’s 26th annual Rural Health Policy Institute Feb. 3-5 in D.C. Register here today.

Senate GOP names new health Committee members

The Senate Republican Leadership announced the appointment of new members to Committees of Jurisdiction for health policy today.  Senators Dan Coats, Dean Heller and Tim Scott will join the Senate Finance Committee while Senators Susan Collins and Bill Cassidy will join the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. The new appointments are subject to the approval of the full Republican Conference.

These new appointments remind all of the importance of educating all Senators and Representatives on the needs of rural patients and providers.  NRHA’s annual Rural Health Policy Institute is the perfect opportunity to get involved and advocate for rural health. Registration information is available here.

CR-Omnibus Released

Late last night, the Appropriations Committee in the House of Representatives released their proposed text for a $1.1 trillion spending bill that would cover the rest of Federal fiscal year 2015.  The bill expands funding for NIH, CDC and Ebola-specific responses while modifying insurance risk corridors under the ACA and cutting funds for the Independent Payment Advisory Board.

The bipartisan measure does not address important NRHA priorities such as the SGR, Medicare “extenders” or the temporary Medicaid primary care payment increase. NRHA maintains that these programs must be extended and will make their permanency a major component of our ask at the Rural Health Policy Institute. Register today to join your voice to the chorus fighting for rural.