Group Pushes Medicaid Changes Package Addresses Health Care Access in Rural America

Article excerpt

A bipartisan group of House members led by Reps. Glenn Poshard, D-Ill., and Steve Gunderson, R-Wis., is pushing changes in Medicaid reimbursement rates to help rural hospitals and other incentives to improve health care in small-town America.

The lawmakers also want to give incentives for primary care providers to practice in rural areas and promote the use and sharing of telemedicine and new technologies.

"I think we all understand that the health care system in America is changing very rapidly, and often, our rural health care system gets lost in the larger debate," Poshard said. "I believe this bill gives us a voice."

Noting progress on other health-care fronts this year, Gunderson said, "You can have all the insurance you want. You can have all the affordability you want. But if you don't have access to health care, it really doesn't matter."

Gunderson said he had a commitment from Rep. Dennis Hastert, the Yorkville Republican who is the House GOP's point man on health care, that the leadership would try to move the bill this session, probably after the August recess.

But Gunderson predicted the final package would not include an important change in Medicare reimbursement rates for managed care plans, which would reduce the great disparity in payouts between rural and urban areas.

"I'm not optimistic," Gunderson said.

Poshard said he wanted to move ahead with the Medicare provision in the health-care package. "I don't think you have to wait for the big bill," he said.

The two lawmakers are co-chairmen of the House Rural Health Care Coalition. Their legislation, supported by Illinois Democrats Lane Evans of Rock Island and Dick Durbin of Springfield, is endorsed by groups such as the National Association of Rural Health Clinics, the American Hospital Association and National Grange. …