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Rep. Kind and Dr. Don Berwick Hold Roundtable, Discuss Access to Rural Health Care

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U.S. Rep. Ron Kind and Dr. Don Berwick, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) (the top government official overseeing the Medicare and Medicaid programs) today held a rural health care roundtable with nearly 30 providers and administrators from health care facilities across western Wisconsin to discuss health care reform, Medicare and Medicaid benefits, and access to doctors, hospitals, and quality health care in rural communities.

"Our rural health care providers in western Wisconsin have been looked to as leaders in providing high quality, affordable care to our rural communities," said Rep. Kind. I am pleased that Dr. Berwick was able to meet with the committed providers that consistently deliver some of the best, most accessible rural health care in the country."

Kind and Berwick sat down with nearly 30 doctors, nurses and other providers from rural hospitals and clinics across western Wisconsin. The roundtable discussed a variety of issues including access to primary care and emergency rooms, rural hospitals, implementation of health care reform, payment innovations, grants and funding as well as concerns regarding pharmaceutical prices. The various networks of clinics and hospitals in the area are known for consistently providing accessible and affordable care to rural communities. Rep. Kind has long fought to ensure that rural communities in not just Wisconsin but across the country have the same access to doctors, hospitals and other health care providers as larger metropolitan regions.

"Today's roundtable was enlightening and educational," said Nicole Clapp, CEO of Grant Regional Health Center in Lancaster. "We discussed a variety of topics. It was a great opportunity to have a one on one dialog with Dr. Berwick and Rep. Kind and to know that the rural health care community and the challenges we face are being recognized and addressed."

"I'm pleased to have had the opportunity to discuss rural health care issues with Rep. Kind and Dr. Berwick," said Philip Stuart, CEO of Tomah Memorial Hospital. "In the rural areas, we have a unique set of challenges and it's important for the federal government to understand them and know how to deal with them in terms of Medicare and Medicaid. From our discussion today, it is clear that Dr. Berwick has a good understanding of these issues. It was invaluable to have an audience with him today."

"It's clear that both Dr. Berwick and Rep. Kind recognize that health care providers in rural Wisconsin are trying to do the right thing -- constantly innovate to deliver the highest quality, affordable, and efficient care and do it without abuse or fraud," said Dr. Aaron Dunn, family physician with Upland Hills Health in Dodgeville. "I was particularly impressed with Dr. Berwick's understanding of the value of primary care and the importance and sanctity of the doctor patient relationship."

"I was pleased to hear from Dr. Berwick today that he and CMS are looking to us, as rural providers, to propose solutions to change and improve our health care system," said Kimberly Hawthorne, Administrator of Mayo Clinic Health System Franciscan Health Care in Sparta and Tomah. "We know that primary care providers drive health care but we need to make it easier for them to focus on the patient. Simplifying the processes, rules and regulations regarding Medicare, Medicaid and the TRICARE system will eliminate waste in the system and allow our practitioners to focus on the needs of the patients without having to jump through so many hoops."

Rep. Kind and Dr. Berwick also met with hospital administrators and more than 200 health care providers from Marshfield Clinic, Mayo Clinic Health System, and Sacred Heart Hospital at the Mayo facility in Eau Claire as well an additional 100 administrators and providers from Gundersen Lutheran Health Systems and Mayo Clinic Health System in La Crosse.

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