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Berg to HHS Secretary: Obamacare Regulations, Cuts to Critical Access Hospitals Bad for North Dakota

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC

Congressman Rick Berg today questioned the Obama administration's recent budget proposals that call for the costly implementation of the President's health care overhaul while also reducing seniors' ability to receive quality, accessible health care in rural communities.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius testified today before House Ways and Means Committee to discuss President Obama's FY 2013 budget proposal, which calls for $1.3 billion in spending to implement the President's government health care overhaul. This is the first time Sebelius has spoken before the House since the President proposed his budget earlier this month.

At today's hearing, Berg reaffirmed his commitment to maintaining quality health care access in rural regions. Concerned with the President's FY13 budget proposal, Berg noted that North Dakota's 36 critical access hospitals, which provide essential medical services to the state's rural communities, could be forced to close their doors if the Obama administration's proposal to cut payments for critical access hospitals is implemented. Under the President's proposal, North Dakota's critical access hospitals face up to a $1.2 million loss per year.

"Growing up in the small rural town of Hettinger, I know firsthand how important North Dakota's critical access hospitals are in providing quality, accessible care," Berg stated. "In rural areas, we don't have the ability to simply get in our car and drive past three hospitals on the way through town -- in reality, most rural communities rely on critical access hospitals, which act as a hub for the medical services in the area. Under President Obama's proposal, North Dakota's critical access hospitals face up to a $1.2 million loss per year. For these small hospitals, that can mean the difference between staying open and continuing to care for seniors, or closing their doors for good. This is yet another example of President Obama's failed Washington approach to health care that has led to senseless regulations and the costly government takeover of health care, which the majority of North Dakotans did not support."

Berg noted that last week, he visited the Jamestown Regional Medical Center, a critical access hospital, to discuss the role that the health facility holds in providing medical care to Jamestown and surrounding communities. Under the Obama administration's proposed cuts, the North Dakota Hospital Association estimates that North Dakota's critical access hospitals would see a $1.2 million cut to Medicare reimbursements annually. Jamestown Regional Medical Center alone expects a quarter-million dollar reduction in Medicare reimbursement each year.

Of North Dakota's 36 critical access hospitals, many provide other essential local health services like a primary clinic, a nursing home, senior housing units, or assisted living. In total, only 5 of North Dakota's critical access hospitals operate as a traditional, stand-alone hospital. Additionally, only 10 percent of physicians practice in rural America, although a quarter of the nation's population lives in these areas.

Berg also expressed his strong opposition to the IPAB board set up through President Obama's health care law, which places an unelected board of bureaucrats in charge of Medicare services and payment, and to the Obama administration's recent regulatory encroachment on religious freedom, noting it as one of many problems that have arisen as a result of the President's health care overhaul.

"President Obama's government health care overhaul forces new costs and more regulations on American families and small businesses, and today's hearing reemphasized the how poorly designed the President's law is," Berg added. "Between a board unelected bureaucrats that oversee Medicare payment decisions and the recent political mandates that violate Americans' religious freedoms, it's even more apparent that President Obama's health care law needs to be repealed. North Dakotans did not want the President's health care overhaul to begin with, and I will continue fighting to put an end to it and work for real reform that North Dakotans have asked for.

Earlier this month, Berg joined more than 150 members of the U.S. House of Representatives in calling on Sebelius to reverse a recent decision regarding the overreaching insurance mandates found in President Obama's health care law violate the conscience rights of many religiously-affiliated organizations and employers. Berg serves as a co-sponsor of H.R. 1179, the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act, which would ensure that the provisions of the President's health care law would not penalize or discriminate against any individual for exercising conscientious objection to the health plans or programs established by it.

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