Walden Unveils Comprehensive Rural Health Care Improvement Bill
In an effort to further improve rural Americans' access to quality health care, Congressmen Greg Walden (R-Ore.) and Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.) - co-chairs of the House Rural Health Care Coalition (RHCC) - introduced H.R. 2860, the Health Care Access and Rural Equity Act (H-CARE). This bipartisan legislation, which was introduced with 52 co-sponsors, is a comprehensive bill that makes several improvements to our nation's health care infrastructure. The improvements will help rural health care providers address the unique challenges associated with delivering quality health care close to home in rural areas like Oregon's Second Congressional District.
"Rural caregivers and rural patients deserve a better partner in the federal government when it comes to the health of rural America," Walden said. "It is high time that rural America stops being treated like a second-class constituency when it comes to issues like Medicare reimbursement. The H-CARE Act delivers commonsense solutions to obstacles that can inhibit the delivery of quality health care to millions of Americans."
"People living in rural areas face unique challenges to receiving adequate health care, including access to hospitals and shortages of healthcare providers," Pomeroy said. "The H-CARE Act will ensure that people living in rural states like North Dakota won't have to drive hours to see a specialist or lose critical time waiting for an ambulance to arrive.
H.R. 2860 will:
* Authorize health information technology grants for rural practitioners.
* Provide flexibility in the number of beds Critical Access Hospitals are allowed to fill.
* Require prompt payment to rural pharmacies by Medicare prescription drug plans.
* Ensure adequate rural representation on the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission.
* Establish a Rural Heath Quality Advisory Commission.
* Raise Rural Health Clinic reimbursements to more appropriately cover costs.
* Extend several expiring Medicare adjustment payments for rural practitioners including physicians practicing in physician-scarce areas, rural ambulance providers, rural home health agencies and specific classes of rural hospitals.
"On behalf of millions of rural Americans, I thank Representatives Pomeroy and Walden for their support of rural health," said George Miller, President of the National Rural Health Association. "The membership of the NRHA is thrilled with the introduction of the H-CARE Act of 2007 that helps the entire landscape of the rural health system strengthen the quality of its care. We will work to make sure this vital message of access to quality care for all Americans is heard in the halls of Congress."
To date, 14 national organizations have endorsed the H-CARE Act including the National Rural Health Association, American Hospital Association, American Osteopathic Association, American Ambulance Association, National Association of Rural Health Clinics, National Association for Home Care and Hospice, College of American Pathologists, Rural Referral Center/Sole Community Hospital Coalition, Federation of American Hospitals, American Counseling Association, American Association for Marriage and Family Therapists, Association of Community Pharmacists, the Section 508 Hospital Coalition and the American Mental Health Counselors Association.