Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) once again tried to add common sense language to the government takeover of health care to give rural areas fair representation on the panels that will be charged with making major public health care policy decisions. The two amendments were voted down along party lines in the House Rules Committee.
"Rural America continues to be challenged by shortages of health care providers and barriers to health care access," said Rep. Walden, who received the National Rural Health Association's 2010 Legislative Award. "Because of these unique challenges, rural America and rural Oregon deserve proportional representation on the boards empowered with making major public health care policy decisions in this country."
"Two "fair representation' amendments I authored were adopted unanimously in the House Energy and Commerce Committee last summer, only to be dropped from the bill behind the closed doors of Speaker Pelosi's office," Walden said. "And to this day, no one has explained to me why simple amendments to give rural America fair representation have been blocked time and again from being added to the bill, despite their strong bipartisan support."
Details on the amendments:
Amendment #1: Rural representation on MedPAC
* MedPAC is the nonpartisan commission that advises Congress on issues affecting the Medicare program, such as access to care, quality of care and the appropriateness of Medicare payments to health care providers.
* Currently 26 percent of the Medicare population lives in rural areas. However, just two of MedPAC's 17 commissioners have rural healthcare credentials -- that's just 11 percent of the board. In the past it's been as low as just one single commissioner.
* The amendment would mandate that the number of MedPAC Commissioners representing rural beneficiaries and providers be proportional to the number of rural Medicare beneficiaries in the Medicare program.
* According to the National Rural Health Association: "This amendment is a huge step for rural America, which has traditionally been underrepresented in MedPAC despite statutory requirements that a "balance" of its commissioners have rural experience."
Rural representation on the Independent Medicare Advisory Board
* Section 3403 of the government takeover of healthcare establishes an Independent Medicare Advisory Board.
* The bill says that the purpose of the new board is to "reduce the rate of per capita rate of growth in Medicare spending," which equates to cutting Medicare. The government takeover of healthcare will already cut over $500 billion from Medicare.
* Currently 26 percent of the total U.S. population lives in rural areas, so this amendment would require that at least one quarter of the new Independent Medicare Advisory Board members be practitioners who have legitimate experience practicing in a rural area for at least a five-year period preceding their appointment.
Representative Greg Walden is the House Republican Leadership Chairman and represents Oregon's Second Congressional District, which is comprised of 20 counties in eastern, southern, and central Oregon.