Oregon's Senators Gordon H. Smith and Ron Wyden, Congresswoman Darlene Hooley, Congressmen Greg Walden and David Wu joined together in calling on Secretary of Health and Human Services Michael Levitt to allow for further consideration of new policy that could have a devastating impact on funding for health care facilities in Oregon. The Administration's proposal would alter the federal formula for determining health care funding in a manner that could disproportionately impact the state of Oregon.
"Oregon's legislators have united to send a strong message to the Administration that changes are needed to protect Oregon's health centers," said Senator Smith. "Before potentially forcing these facilities into financial crisis, the Administration must take time to carefully review the policy and work with Oregon's health care community to understand its full impact on our state."
"Thousands of Oregonians count on the state's rural health care facilities," said Senator Wyden. "The potential consequences of the proposed rule change are significant and hit Oregon particularly hard. This letter puts the administration on notice that Oregon's congressional delegation will be following this issue closely."
"Delivering quality health care to rural Oregon remains a top priority of mine in Washington, D.C.," Congressman Walden said. "The proposed rule could be costly to Oregonians and adversely affect their access to health care. We are asking HHS to give the health experts on the ground more time to weigh in on the real world impact on rural Oregon, from places like the Ochoco Clinic in Prineville to the Baker Clinic in Baker City to the Klamath Falls Open Door Clinic."
"Community Health Centers and other similar facilities provide care for Oregon's neediest families," said Congressmen Wu. "We must thoroughly analyze any bureaucratic rule change that has the potential to result in disastrous service cuts for these already underserved populations."
On February 29, 2008, the Health Resources and Services Administration, under the Department of Health and Human Services, proposed a rule for the "Designation of Medically Underserved Populations and Health Professional Shortage Areas." Due to the "complexity and ambiguity of the rule," as the letter states, members of the Oregon delegation asked the Administration to review stakeholders' comments, publish a revised rule that clarifies and addresses the many outstanding concerns, and provide stakeholders 30 to 60 days of comment before publishing the final rule. The current comment period for the rule will close at the end of the week.