U.S. Senators Heidi Heitkamp (D-North Dakota) and John Thune (R-South Dakota) today led a bipartisan group of 33 senators in sending a letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Director Marilyn Tavenner expressing concern that federal regulations for health care facilities do not adequately consider the impact on rural health care providers and rural patients.
The senators’ letter calls on CMS Director Tavenner to share details about how the agency is incorporating rural health care experts earlier in rule-drafting, and called for comprehensive information on the rulemaking process. Noting that recent policy decisions have not adequately reflected the reality of health delivery in rural areas, the senators called on CMS to work toward practices and standards that take rural health facilities into account during its initial rulemaking process. Such efforts would help ensure seniors, families, veterans, and others can access services they need in their communities, rather than forcing them to travel long distances for care.
“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,” said the senators. “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.”
Senators Heitkamp, Thune and others have supported legislation to address specific CMS rules that are harmful to rural health facilities.
Click here to view the letter Heitkamp, Thune and 33 other senators sent on October 8, 2014, to CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner. The National Rural Health Association (NRHA) and the American Hospital Association (AHA) both support the senators’ letter.Heitkamp and Thune were joined in their letter by Senators Tim Johnson (D-South Dakota), John Hoeven (R-North Dakota), John Barrasso (R-Wyoming), John Tester (D-Montana), Michael Bennet (D-Colorado), Mary Landrieu (D-Louisiana), Pat Roberts (R-Kansas), Joe Donnelly (D-Indiana), Jerry Moran (R-Kansas), Mark Kirk (R-Illinois), Susan Collins (R-Maine), David Vitter (R-Louisiana), Deb Fischer (R-Nebraska), Mike Enzi (R-Wyoming), Dan Coats (R-Indiana), Richard Burr (R-North Carolina), Jim Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), Roy Blunt (R-Missouri), Thad Cochran (R-Mississippi), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin), Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi), Mike Johanns (R-Nebraska), Mark Pryor (D-Arkansas), Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri), Maria Cantwell (D-Washington), Angus King (I-Maine), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin), Mark Udall (D-Colorado), and Al Franken (D-Minnesota).