At a Senate Finance Committee hearing held today, witnesses and legislators examined the issues surrounding access to health care in rural communities.
Before the hearing started, FAH President and CEO issued a statement emphasizing the importance of rural care:
“Hospitals are the foundation of health care in small communities from coast to coast. With a hospital close by rural Americans have access to timely, quality care and frequently depend on that hospital as their sole source of care.
“We appreciate the Senate Finance Committee convening today's hearing not just to draw attention to the many challenges rural health care faces, such as hospital closures – but to explore opportunities that can improve people's lives, like expanding the implementation of telehealth.
“This hearing is an important first step. We look forward to working with the Congress to ensure rural families have access to care close to home, when and where they need it most.”
One topic that was brought up by Senators and witnesses – free-standing emergency rooms.
In his opening remarks, Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) cited an April recommendation from the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission to pay free-standing EDs more than 35 miles from other hospitals an annual fee to aid fixed overhead costs on top of their standard reimbursement rate.
Legislation from Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), meanwhile, would create a new Rural Emergency Hospital classification, doing away with hospitals' need to maintain costly inpatient beds to be paid under Medicare.
You can read witness testimony and watch video of the hearing by clicking here.