Rural Health Amendments Pass the Senate Finance Committee

Last week the Senate Finance Committee approved the “Chairman’s Mark” of the SGR Repeal and Medicare Beneficiary Access Improvement Act of 2013.  A number of rural provisions were included as amendments and adopted by the Committee.  The bill would permanently repeal the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) and permanently extend a number of rural Medicare extenders.  The National Rural Health Association (NRHA) has been leading the fight for a number of Medicare extenders, essential to rural providers, to be extended at current levels in perpetuity.  Additionally, NRHA has sought for regulatory burden reduction that would alleviate the burdens placed on various rural providers.  A number of amendments offered at last week’s mark-up accomplished these purposes.  Among the important actions taken at the hearing, Amendments 117 and 121 were adopted in the Chairman’s Mark at the beginning of the hearing and, therefore, did not require a vote.

Thanks to the National Rural Health Associations’ Government Affair’s team, here is a rundown of the amendments impacting rural health: 

Amendment 117 (Thune/Bennet/Enzi/Roberts 1): This amendment would return supervision requirements for outpatient therapy services furnished at Critical Access Hospitals back to “general supervision.” This was the supervision level observed at nearly every CAH prior to 2009.

Amendment 121 (Thune/Wyden/Roberts/Rockefeller/Enzi/Stabenow 5): This amendment would ensure that the new Alternative Payment Models do not interfere with or inhibit the development of telehealth technologies that are critical to the future of delivering care in rural America.

Additionally, the following amendments passed with unanimous voice vote:

Amendment 18 (Schumer/Grassley 1): This amendment would permanently extend, at current levels two crucial rural hospital payments, the Medicare Dependent Hospital program and Low Volume Hospital Adjustment.

Amendment 82 (Grassley 13): This amendment would set a permanent floor on the work component of the Geographic Practice Cost Index (GPCI) at its current level of 1.0 creating a stable and more equitable reimbursement rate for rural physicians.

Amendment 118 (Thune/Casey/Enzi Amendment 2): This amendment would establish demonstration project for telehealth remote patient monitoring services. This demonstration would help show the efficacy remote patient monitoring in keeping patients in their homes rather than in hospitals.

Passing these amendments in the Senate Finance Committee is a win for rural health.  Stay tuned for updates as the budget setting process continues.  Email and call us with your stories and questions as we prepare to visit our elected officials during NRHA’s 25thannual Rural Health Policy Institute Feb. 4-6 in D.C.
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