Monday, June 18, 2012

Rural health advocates object to federal report that suggested ending special payments to rural hospitals

The National Rural Health Association and a coalition of Medicare-dependent rural hospitals say a recent report that found payments to rural doctors are "at least as adequate as those made to urban physicians"and "some special payments to rural hospitals should not be continued" is inaccurate and "harmful to rural Americans," the Daily Yonder reports.

The report came from the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, "an independent congressional agency given the job of reporting on functioning of Medicare." The groups say 77 percent of rural counties are defined by the Rural Health Research Center as having a shortage of health professionals, and 164 counties have no primary-care physician. And they point to a 2011 federal report which found that “Rural areas have higher rates of poverty, chronic disease, and uninsurance, and millions of rural Americans have limited access to a primary health care provider.” Moreover, the groups say that a recent study found that 35 percent of all rural hospitals lose money.

Alan Morgan, CEO of NRHA, said “Rural patients and providers will ultimately pay the price as rural hospitals will be forced to eliminate services or close their doors if this report is enacted." (Read more)

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