Author Archives: Erin Mahn

President Obama signs the Improving Medicare Post-Acute Care Transformation Act of 2014 into law

President Obama signed into law the Improving Medicare Post-Acute Care Transformation Act of 2014 (IMPACT Act). This legislation improves post-acute care for Medicare beneficiaries, and standardizes data for quality, payment and discharge planning for post-acute care providers, including nursing homes and home health agencies.

The bipartisan legislation was introduced by Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) and Ranking Member Sander Levin (D-MI).

More information on the IMPACT Act can be found here.

Members of Congress head home for August recess

Members of Congress are back home for their five-week district work period. The National Rural Health Association encourages rural health leaders across the country to visit the district offices, attend town halls and invite members of Congress to tour rural facilities.

The rural health care safety net is in jeopardy.  More rural hospitals have closed in the last year than over the past decade and they are continuing to face more challenges with Medicare reductions, failure to expand state Medicaid, and regulatory changes imposed by CMS.

Rural hospitals are critical to rural American and provide great value to the rural patient, rural community and taxpayer. Urge your members of Congress to stand up for rural and protect the rural health safety net.

NRHA has outlined concerns with the Affordable Care Act, sequestration and the attacks on rural hospitals here.

VA bill passes Senate and House, heads to White House

On Thursday, the Senate approved 91-3 a compromise bill to overhaul the Department of Veterans Affairs. The House passed the bill Wednesday and it will now go to President Barack Obama for his signature.

The legislation allows veterans who experience long wait times or live far from VA facilities to receive non-VA care. The bill also allows the VA to hire new doctors and nurses.

Continue monitoring NRHA’s blog for the latest VA news. For more information on the health needs of rural veterans, please view NRHA’s recent policy paper:  Rural Veterans: A Special Concern for Rural Health Advocates

CMS issued final rule to reform burdensome regulations for providers

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a final rule to reform Medicare regulations identified as “unnecessary, obsolete, or excessively burdensome on health care providers and suppliers.” Revisions include eliminating the requirement that a physician must be onsite at a Critical Access Hospital (CAH), Rural Health Clinic (RHC) and a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) for at least once every two weeks. These facilities will still require a physician to be onsite for a sufficient amount of time, but it will depend on the needs of the facility and the patients.  The rule also provides revisions and clarifications for transplant centers, long-term care, clinical laboratories and Ambulatory Surgery Centers (ASCs). Most of the changes will go into effect tomorrow, July 11.

NRHA applauds CMS for working to reduce burdens for rural providers and facilities.

Tell Congress to protect rural hospitals during this week’s recess

This week, Congress will be back in their districts for the Independence Day holiday to meet with constituents.  Contact your member of Congress today. Invite them to your facility, attend town halls and visit their district offices. Tell your Senators and Representatives to protect rural hospitals:

Rural Hospitals are important health care access points for rural patients across the country.

Rural Hospitals are critical to the rural economy.  Rural Hospitals are often the largest or second largest employer in a rural community. If a rural hospital closes, severe economic decline in the rural community is the result.  Soon after, physicians, nurses, pharmacists and other health care providers in the community will be forced to leave.  Patients will have to travel farther distances for care or will delay receiving care, resulting in poorer health outcomes. Businesses, families, and retirees will not relocate to a rural area if quality health care is not available.

Investments in rural hospitals save tax payer dollars. Rural Hospitals provide cost-effective care.  In fact, in comparing identical Medicare services in a rural setting to an urban setting, the cost of care in a rural setting is on-average 3.7 % less expensive.

For additional information on the importance of rural hospitals, visit our Congressional Action Kit.

 

Senate passes bill allowing veterans to receive private care

The Senate passed a bill Wednesday allowing veterans to seek care from private providers if they experience long delays or live more than 40 miles from a VA hospital or clinic.

The bill also expands VA medical facilities across the country and calls for hiring more doctors and nurses to provide timely, quality care for veterans. Veterans experiencing long delays at the VA could access care at community health centers, Indian health centers, Department of Defense medical facilities or private doctors.

Rural veterans face significant challenges in accessing the health care services close to home. A disproportionate number of those serving in the military come from rural communities. Time, distance, and economic challenges prevent many rural veterans from receiving health care benefits through a VA facility. Preventative care and follow-up procedures are often impossible. Removing these barriers and allowing rural veterans to choose care close to home in their rural communities will expand veterans’ access to primary, emergency, and inpatient care for rural veterans throughout the nation.

Senate Appropriations Subcommittee approves Labor-HHS spending bill

The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS-Education) approved their fiscal year 2015 (FY15) spending bill. The FY 2015 appropriations bill provides $156,773,000,000 in base discretionary budget authority, the same level as FY 2014.

The bill includes an increase from FY 2014 spending for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Community Health Centers (CHCs). The committee recommends level funding for the Children’s Hospitals Graduate Medical Education (CHGME).

NRHA continues to advocate on behalf of all rural health programs including the Rural Hospital Flexibility Grants, Area Health Education Centers, Rural Training Tracks, State Offices of Rural Health, and others.  More information about the Subcommittee’s markup bill is here.

Burwell sworn in as HHS Secretary

Sylvia Mathews Burwell was sworn in as the 22nd Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) today. The Senate voted 78 to 17 to confirm Burwell as Secretary last week.

Burwell has served as the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). She previously served as the president of the Walmart Foundation and president of the Global Development Program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The National Rural Health Association has requested a meeting with Secretary Burwell.

Senate confirms Burwell as HHS Secretary

The Senate voted 78 to 17 to confirm Sylvia Mathews Burwell as the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS). She is expected to be sworn in Monday.

Burwell has served as the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). She previously served as the president of the Walmart Foundation and president of the Global Development Program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.