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Senators write letter over concern for rural health care delivery

Thad Cochran

Sen. Thad Cochran

Sen. Roger Wicker

Sen. Roger Wicker

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) are pushing the Obama administration to more effectively consider the effects its federal rules and regulations have on the delivery of health care in rural areas.

The senators are among 34 who have signed a letter to Marilyn B. Tavenner, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), that asks her to provide comprehensive details about the CMS rulemaking process and how rural health care concerns are addressed. The senators assert that recent policy decisions have not adequately reflected the reality of health delivery in rural areas.

“A one-size-fits-all approach to health care regulations too often puts rural residents at a disadvantage and makes access to care more difficult. This letter is a warning to the administration that our constituents deserve better,” said Cochran, who serves on the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that inserted provisions in a FY2014 law directing CMS to coordinate with the Office of Rural Health Policy when developing rules.

Spearheaded by Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and John Thune (R-S.D.), the letter cited several recent policies that make it more difficult for rural health care providers and facilities to serve rural populations.

“We remain concerned these policy decisions do not reflect the reality of providing care in rural communities, and we request additional details on these consultation efforts in advance of future rulemaking,” the senators wrote.“The proportion of elderly rural Americans continues to grow, and even small policy changes or incremental payment adjustments have a significant impact on access to care in rural areas. Medicare beneficiaries should be able to obtain care within their own communities when possible, and we are committed to ensuring federal policies recognize and incorporate the unique challenges rural providers face.”

In addition to Cochran and Wicker, the letter was signed by Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Dan Coats (R-Ind.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), Angus King (I-Maine), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), John Tester (D-Mont.), Mark Udall (D-Colo.), and David Vitter (R-La.).

The National Rural Health Association (NRHA) and the American Hospital Association (AHA) both support the senators’ letter, according to the senators.



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