WASHINGTON, D.C. – This week, Representative John E. Peterson, R-Pleasantville, joined fellow members of the bipartisan Rural Health Care Caucus in unveiling the Health Care Access and Rural Equity (H-CARE) Act. The H-Care Act aims to stabilize elements of the nation’s rural health care infrastructure and correct deficiencies that jeopardize vulnerable rural health care systems and beneficiaries nationwide.
“This legislation will help level the playing field for folks in my district when it comes to the availability and quality of their healthcare. I’ve worked on this legislation in the past, and look forward to moving this bill through Congress and delivering it to the President’s desk,” said Peterson, co-chairman of the Congressional Rural Caucus. “This critical measure will help rural hospitals drive down their health care delivery costs by making Medicare payments for patient care equal to those which urban hospitals receive.”
“People living in rural areas face unique challenges to receiving adequate health care, including access to hospitals and shortages of healthcare providers,” said Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-ND), coauthor of the bill. “The H-CARE Act will ensure that people living in rural states won’t have to drive hours to see a specialist or lose critical time waiting for an ambulance to arrive.”
Rural Americans face a unique combination of factors when accessing health care services, not found in urban areas, which create health care disparities. From traveling hours to the nearest health care provider to significant shortages of practitioners to inadequate reimbursement rates, access to care continues to be a challenge for those living in rural communities. The H-CARE Act addresses these and other existing barriers.
Specifically, the H-CARE Act would boost payments to Rural Health Clinics, authorize $20 to $30 million annually for grants to rural providers to help with the cost of implementing health information technology; ensure that rural Americans are appropriately represented on the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, and require prompt payment to rural pharmacies by Medicare prescription drug plans.
Additionally, the measure would establish flexibility in the Critical Access Hospital program, create a Rural Health Quality Advisory Commission, reauthorize the Rural Outreach and Network grants, and extend the critical rural health provisions of the Medicare Modernization Act and the Deficit Reduction Act through 2011.
“Health care costs continue to skyrocket, and this legislation is just one way we can help rural hospitals cope with those costs. Many rural hospitals in my district are facing a crisis with high costs, replacing old equipment, and fierce competition to retain the best possible staffs,” said Peterson. “Representing the second largest district east of the Mississippi, I know what a significant impact the H-CARE Act would have on so many in rural American.”
To date, 14 national organizations have endorsed the H-CARE Act including the National Rural Health Association, American Hospital Association, National Association of Rural Health Clinics, National Association for Home Care and Hospice, and the Federation of American Hospitals.