In August, Colorado’s U.S. senators and representatives were home in their districts while Congress was in recess. Recess provided an opportunity for CRHC to connect with the federal delegation, as well as members of their staff, through various advocacy activities.
On August 15th, the Office of the Inspector General released a report with recommendations that if implemented, would mean loss of designation and funds for as many as 35 percent of Critical Access Hospitals (CAHs) in Colorado. CRHC sent letters (click here to review copy of letter) to our US senators and representatives reminding them of the vital role these small, rural hospitals play in their communities. In Colorado, 15 percent of the population lives in rural areas, and those rural Coloradans depend on CAHs for access to inpatient and outpatient services, as well as 24-hour emergency care. Without access to these services, the health of the population in these communities will decline. If a hospital closes in a rural community, the entire economy irreversibly erodes. Nationally, the average CAH creates 107 jobs and generates $4.8 million in payroll annually. In Colorado, the proposed changes could mean a loss of as many as 1,100 jobs in CAHs across the state!
August 19th through the 23rd was dedicated to celebrating the fourth annual Safety Net Clinic Week (SNCW). CRHC launched SNCW in 2010 in an effort to raise public officials’ awareness and understanding of federally certified Rural Health Clinics (RHCs) and community safety net clinics. The week is dedicated to celebrating and understanding the critical role of these clinics in providing healthcare services to low-income uninsured and underinsured Coloradans.
The week was kicked off during an open house at Doctors Care, a community safety net clinic in Littleton. More than 25 community members, as well as policymakers, attended the event, and Governor Hickenlooper’s Senior Health Policy Advisor, Katherine Blair, read the Governor’s proclamation declaring Safety Net Clinic Week. Over the course of the week, 11 state senators and representatives, Congressman Polis, and two staffers from the offices of Senator Bennet and Congressman Coffman, toured clinics. Additionally, seven clinics celebrated by holding open houses.
On August 30th, CRHC board members John Ayoub (CEO, Melissa Memorial Hospital in Holyoke) and John Gardner (CEO, Yuma District Hospital in Yuma) met with Senator Bennet and a small group of stakeholders to discuss the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR). The SGR is an equation for determining the level of Medicare physician reimbursement. It was created by Congress in 1997 to control the growth in aggregate Medicare expenditures. As of January 1st of 2014, physicians face a 25 percent cut under the formula.
The cost to fix the SGR this year is considerably lower than projected in the past. Therefore, there is a bipartisan commitment to a full repeal and replacement of the formula this fall. CRHC will stay in communication with our elected officials as they debate options to replace the SGR, while also engaging in discussions to make sure the money to pay for the fix doesn’t come from cuts to already underfunded rural health programs.
Congress returned to Washington this month after a long recess. Members of the house and senate want to hear from you about how policy changes will impact your practice or facility. You can find out who represents you and how to contact them by clicking here. Additionally, CRHC is here to be a resource. Don’t hesitate to contact us with your questions or stories about how these proposed changes impact your facility. We will continue to collaborate with elected officials as policy options are considered and inform them about the impacts of proposed changes on access and delivery of care in rural Colorado.
To get more involved with policy and advocacy devoted to rural health, contact Alicia Haywood, Policy and Advocacy Manager.