U.S. Senator Pat Roberts, Co-Chairman of the Senate Rural Health Caucus, today met with members of the National Rural Health Association to discuss legislation to protect and enhance the rural health delivery system in America.
"As the new health care law takes effect, it is important we ensure patients have access to quality health care in rural areas," Roberts said. "We must also ensure that doing business with the federal government, especially under the new law, doesn't drive rural providers out of business."
Roberts discussed the status of several legislative efforts the Senate Rural Health Caucus is coordinating including: educating senators about the unique challenges facing rural providers especially regarding Medicare/Medicaid payments, attracting physicians to serve rural populations and other issues.
The senator also updated the group on plans to re-introduce the Senator Craig Thomas (R-Wyo.) Rural Hospital and Provider Equity (R-HoPE) Act of 2011. The bill, named for the late senator who was a champion of rural health, makes changes to Medicare regulations for rural hospitals and providers, recognizing the difficulty in achieving the same economies of scale as large urban facilities. It also equalizes Medicare's disproportionate share hospital payments to bring rural hospitals in line with urban facilities and provides additional assistance for small, rural hospitals who have a low-volume of patients. These hospitals often have trouble making ends meet under the Medicare payment system.
Roberts is a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and is a member of the Senate Committee on Finance which has jurisdiction on Medicare.