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Walden Addresses Rural Health Care Issues with Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator

Location: Washington, DC

Walden Addresses Rural Health Care Issues with Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator
Wednesday, March 2, 2005

Administrator Mark McClellan accepts Walden's invitation to discuss CMS' rural initiatives at meeting of Rural Health Care Coalition

WASHINGTON, DC - At a meeting today of the bipartisan House Rural Health Care Coalition, co-chaired by U.S. Representatives Greg Walden (R-OR) and Earl Pomeroy (D-ND), members of the group discussed their priorities for the 109th Congress as related to rural health care issues and heard from Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Mark McClellan, M.D., about CMS' Rural Initiative. Walden and Pomeroy requested that McClellan meet personally with the caucus to discuss these issues.

McClellan's visit with the Coalition came less than two weeks after Walden raised detailed concerns about rural Oregonians' access to health care services with newly appointed Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Mike Leavitt, who has jurisdiction over CMS, during a meeting of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. Walden used today's opportunity to thoroughly address these same concerns with McClellan.

"Having Administrator McClellan at our meeting was instrumental in fostering a strong working relationship between CMS and those of us who represent rural America," said Walden. "From the high costs incurred by home care providers in rural areas as opposed to urban areas to proposed reductions to the Health Care Services Outreach Grant Program that provide funding to enhance delivery of services in rural areas, and from graduate medical education programs to the opportunities presented by telemedicine, these are all issues critical to the care of seniors and other patients in Oregon and throughout rural America."

McClellan stated that he has visited facilities in several rural communities acknowledging that he has "seen firsthand what a difference increased funding is making." McClellan also addressed the need to educate the public about the many valuable components of Medicare that are underused, especially the newly instated preventative measures such as testing for heart disease and colon cancer. Additionally, he spoke with the RHCC about prescription drug benefit plans.

"I appreciate Dr. McClellan for speaking with the RHCC and look forward to working with him in the future," said Walden. "I am committed to ensuring that the RHCC has an ongoing dialogue with CMS, HHS and other federal organizations so that we can work together on enhancing health care deliver in rural parts of our country."

At the beginning of the 109th Congress, Walden introduced H.R. 11, legislation protecting patients in rural areas who receive health care services in their homes, and the agencies providing such care, by offsetting the high costs of delivering home health care in these parts of the country. Walden's bipartisan bill currently has 35 co-sponsors. The bill calls for a five percent add-on for Medicare reimbursements to home health providers in rural areas to areas to help cover greater health care delivery costs, which can sometimes be as much as 12-15 percent higher than in urban areas. The bill has earned early support from the Oregon Association for Home Care, National Rural Health Association, Visiting Nurse Association of America, American Association for Home Care, and the National Association for Home Care and Hospice.

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