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AHA urges Congress to pass Medicare 'extenders' measure

June 25, 2012
 The AHA recently urged Congress to support the extension of several expiring Medicare programs critical to small and rural hospitals.

In letters to every member of the House and Senate, the AHA expressed support for the “Rural Hospital and Provider Equity (R-HoPE) Act,” H.R.3859/S.1680, which would provide additional Medicare funding for small and rural hospitals.

The legislation would improve Medicare payment for rural hospitals that serve a disproportionate share of low-income patients, and adjust the low-volume adjustment for small prospective payment system hospitals that do not qualify as critical access hospitals. It also would extend reasonable cost reimbursement for clinical diagnostic laboratory services provided by small rural hospitals in certain states and a 5% add-on payment for rural home health agencies, among other provisions. In related action, the AHA called on lawmakers to pass another piece of Medicare legislation designed to help rural hospitals, the “Rural Hospital Access Act,” H.R.5943/S.2620 (see the story on page 1).

“Hospitals strive to provide their communities with quality care every day, and they face tough challenges to ensure patients continue to have timely access to essential services,” the AHA wrote in its June 13 letters of support for the two rural health care bills. “However, it is often difficult to plan for community and patient needs when there is uncertainty over whether a program will continue.” (For more on rural hospitals’ challenges, see page 5.) For more on the AHA’s letters of support for the rural hospital bills, go to “Advocacy Issues” at www.aha.org and click on “Letters” under “Tools & Resources.”

Congress in February passed the “Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act,” which extended – anywhere from just a few weeks to the end of the year – several of these Medicare payment provisions.

Some have since expired and will need to be extended retroactively.

As part of its efforts to secure passage of Medicare “extenders” legislation, the AHA on June 12 hosted a policy briefing on Capitol Hill to brief lawmakers and their staff about the vital role each provision plays in helping small and rural hospitals care for their patients and communities. Representatives of the AHA, American Ambulance Association, American Physical Therapy Association, College of American Pathologists, National Rural Health Association and Rural Hospital Coalition participated in the briefing.

By Pete Davis