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Senator Roberts Holds Rural Health Summit in Hays

Location: Hays, KS

U.S. Senator Pat Roberts today held a summit on rural health at the Hays Medical Center to listen to the concerns of providers, patients and other industry representatives about the implementation of the new health care law and its impact on Kansas.

This is the second in a series of planned meetings around the state. The first was held in Topeka in February.

Today's meeting included representatives from the Kansas Hospital Association, The University of Kansas, the Kansas State Nurses Association, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Kansas Academy of Physicians Assistants, Kansas Medical Society, Kansas Pharmacists Association, Kansas Association of Health Underwriters, Kansas Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, Kansas Health Care Association, The Kansas Chamber of Commerce, AARP, Kansas Association of Insurance Agents, emergency response, Kansas Rural Health Association, Kansas Home Care Association and the Kansas Office of Rural Health and the Kansas Association for the Medically Underserved. Secretary Robert Moser of The Kansas Department of Health and Environment also attended the meeting.

The following are Senator Roberts' prepared remarks:

"I want to thank everyone here today for being great partners in government as we work on behalf of rural health care. We know our rural communities face unique needs and often great hurdles in regard to health care. As a member of both the Finance Committee and the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP ) Committee, I am presented with a great opportunity to be an advocate for the rural health delivery system.

"The Finance Committee has jurisdiction over Medicare, Medicaid, SCHIP and other entitlement programs, while the HELP Committee has jurisdiction over all other federal health programs. Many of these programs, such as the National Health Service Corps and health professions programs, are critical for our rural communities.

"As you know, for the past few years I have had the great privilege and honor of being chosen by Republican Leader Mitch McConnell to co-chair the Senate Rural Health Caucus after the passing of my dear friend and colleague, Sen. Craig Thomas of Wyoming. Craig left very big shoes to fill on the Rural Health Caucus, but I am committed to carrying on his legacy.

"To that end, in 2009 I was proud to join with Senators Kent Conrad, Tom Harkin and John Barasso in introducing the Craig Thomas Rural Hospital and Provider Equity (R-HoPE) Act of 2009 S. 1157- to continue to honor Sen. Thomas.

"This legislation recognizes that rural health care providers have very different needs than their urban counterparts and that health care is not one size fits all.

"This bill, named in honor of my former colleague, who was a primary author of the R-HoPE bill we introduced in the 110th Congress, was intended to take critical steps to protect access to health care in rural areas.

"As you well know, hospitals and other health providers in rural areas are typically dependent on Medicare for a greater portion of their revenues than those in urban areas, but Medicare pays them far less for the same procedures.

"Unfortunately, there are no "rural discounts' for supplies, new technologies, or staff; in fact, rural providers often face higher costs in these areas than their urban counterparts. And they need to spread their fixed costs over a smaller patient base.

"This has left many facilities in rural areas at risk of closure, which would deny access to health care not just to Medicare patients, but to all residents of the community.

"R-HoPE was drafted to address these issues. I am committed to reintroducing a similar bill during the 112th Congress. We must send a strong signal to the Senate that rural health care issues are a top priority, and that rural communities speak with a united voice.

"Any future legislation will share the same commitment to protect and strengthen our rural health care delivery system, and we need more members to join us in this cause.

"I continue to have significant concerns that the health reform package never got to the root of the problems within our health system. The new program will increase costs for individuals and for our national debt.

"I know what the other side will say, but it just doesn't make sense to me to reduce funding for one program to create a whole new program.

"I also think that this health package is bad for health care and represents government at its worst.

"And it also contains provisions that give the federal government additional, significant oversight of programs that impact rural health care. Specifically the IPAB provisions.

"I continue to have serious concerns and will join many of my colleagues as they look at options for repealing the legislation and replacing it with ideas that would better serve our rural communities.

"I was surprised to hear about President Obama's commitment through an Executive Order recently to require that federal agencies ensure that regulations protect our safety, health and environment while promoting economic growth.

"I introduced the Regulatory Responsibility for our Economy Act, S. 358, to codify the Executive Order and remove some of the loopholes that I found.

"Additionally, following our meeting in February, which many of you attended, I notified the President of areas, based on our discussion where I believe his commitment can be best served by ridding our government of rules already on the books that represent government overreach, significant and underestimated costs to our businesses and a complete misunderstanding of how the "real world" operates outside of Washington.

"While we may not agree on every issue, I do work with HHS and CMS quite often in my role on the Finance Committee and Rural Health Caucus. So, I look to all of you here today to keep me informed as problems arise and I will do my best to reason with Administration to help them understand how their actions are affecting our rural providers.

"I have always valued the insight that rural folks provide me, their recommendations about how to approach specific legislation and how I can help with the regulatory burden that you face.

"So I want to open up the conversation to you all to get feedback from you on additional ways I can help and where you think we need to focus on rural health care."

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