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Public Statements

Prescription Drug and Medicare Improvement Act of 2003

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

PRESCRIPTION DRUG AND MEDICARE IMPROVEMENT ACT OF 2003
CONGRESSIONAL RECORD
SENATE
PAGE S8013
June 18, 2003

Mr. SPECTER. Mr. President, I have sought recognition to express my support for increased funding for rural hospitals. Pennsylvania is a geographically and demographically diverse State, and the health care needs of the communities across the Commonwealth differ significantly. But there is one constant—access to appropriate health care is critical, and if we are not prudent in making wise health care policy decisions now, we may jeopardize our citizens' ability to get the right care, in the right setting, at the right time.

We must be aware of the pressures and challenges that constantly weaken the foundation of the health care system—the medical liability insurance crisis, inadequate State and Federal reimbursements, workforce shortages, growing uncompensated care costs, rising costs of technology and pharmaceuticals, bioterrorism planning and training, and a growing elderly population. As we look at restructuring a segment of the Medicare Program, we have the opportunity to strengthen that foundation. Improving our prescription drug benefits will not help the senior citizens of this country if health care providers cannot meet their needs.

We must also remember that our actions here in the Senate and by our colleagues in the House have implications not only for the quality and stability of our health care system but for our economic health as well. A recent study completed by the Penn State Cooperative Extension and the Pennsylvania Office of Rural Health shows that the State's hospitals are the largest component of the health services sector, generating more than $33.9 billion to the State's economy. This includes 260,000 full- and part-time jobs, a payroll exceeding $9.3 billion, and a ripple effect that provides another 179,400 jobs and $5.4 billion in additional employee compensation. In many counties, the hospital is the No. 1 employer. Furthermore, the State's research hospitals have been identified as an integral component of biotechnology clusters, serving as an engine of growth in the new economy.

Given all of these dynamics, we must support a legislative plan that adequately funds hospital and health systems. This plan must recognize that our rural communities face a unique set of challenges because they are often the only provider of health care in a vast geographic region and they have greater difficulty recruiting health care workers and physicians in today's health care climate. Such a plan should also include two major rural provisions dealing with the standardized rate amount and a change in the labor component to 62 percent. The standardized rate amount will allow rural hospitals to receive a Medicare standardized payment rate equal to the higher rate paid to urban areas. The adjustment of the labor component from 71 percent to 62 percent for rural hospitals will allow rural hospitals, which traditionally have low labor costs, to base a larger portion of their Medicare reimbursement on nonlabor provisions, thereby receiving a higher reimbursement from Medicare.

I urge my colleagues to join in making sound health care policy decisions to ensure we are strengthening the foundation of our health care delivery system in those areas in which it is most vulnerable.

I yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum.

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