March 10, 2005

Craig & Crapo Join Defense Of Medicare Bills' Rural Health Provisions

(Washington, DC) A recent story in the Washington Post has ignited a protest from the U.S. Senate Rural Health Caucus, of which Idaho Sens. Larry Craig and Mike Crapo are members. The Gem State duo joined yesterday with a large number of other senators in a letter sent to the Postâ??s editor â?? a letter which outlines the concerns of rural states when it comes to Medicare reimbursement rates. â??It is a simple fact that health care providers in rural states like Idaho get less money when it comes to Medicare. The new Medicare bill, now working its way through a House-Senate conference committee, seeks to level the financial playing field. Rural medical providers understand the problem as do seniors in rural states,â?? said Sen. Larry Craig, Chairman of the Special Committee on Aging. Sen. Crapo, who served as the leader of the Idaho State Senate before being elected to the U.S. Congress, echoed that concern. â??Earlier this year our stateâ??s legislature passed a resolution which found that the disparity between Medicare payments could cause a doctor or other health care provider in Idaho to be â??reimbursed half as much as a colleague in another state for the same service.â?? That resolution called for us to correct this problem, and that is what Sen. Craig and I, and many others are doing,â?? Sen. Crapo said. The Washington Postâ??s story, titled â??Hill Supports Medicare Boost To Rural Areas,â?? stated that â??there are few signs that rural residents â?? who make up nearly one-fourth of the 40 million people on Medicare â?? are sicker, less satisfied with their care or less prone to get the treatment they need.â?? But the Rural Caucus senators said they did not want to wait until that happened. â??Thereâ??s an abundance of rural health research proving Medicare payment policies short change rural providers. A recent MedPAC report shows rural hospitalsâ?? Medicare margins are in the red. MedPAC made several recommendations to improve rural hospital payments, which are the core provisions of our package,â?? the thirty-one senators wrote. â??Health care in rural America is at a critical juncture. Congress must act now to ensure rural providers receive equity and rural seniors have access to the care they deserve.â?? MedPAC is the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, an independent federal organization that advises Congress on issues affecting the Medicare program. The Commission's 17 members have a diverse expertise in the fields of financing and delivery of health services, and meet publicly to discuss issues and formulate recommendations to the Congress on improving Medicare policies. Here's the letter: ==================================================================== Senate Rural Health CaucusTo the Editor of the Washington Post: As members of the Senate Rural Health Caucus we are writing to correct the misrepresentation in your Oct. 20 story, â??Hill Supports Medicare Boost to Rural Areasâ?? regarding our rural Medicare equity provisions. The story misses the goal of our rural equity provisions by a country mile. A disproportionate number of seniors live in rural areas and are poorer with more chronic conditions than urban seniors. However, rural providers get, in many cases, half the Medicare payment their urban counterparts receive, a policy threatening their future as many depend on Medicare for up to 70 percent of total revenue. The point of our package is to ensure rural seniors never find themselves in the crisis of having no access to care. Thereâ??s an abundance of rural health research proving Medicare payment policies short change rural providers. A recent MedPAC report shows rural hospitalsâ?? Medicare margins are in the red. MedPAC made several recommendations to improve rural hospital payments, which are the core provisions of our package. Physicians in our states have or will begin limiting the number of seniors they serve due to poor payments. Home health agencies, ambulances and clinics are critical to the continuum of care in rural areas. They face unique obstacles like distance and payments should reflect these circumstances. Health care in rural America is at a critical juncture. Congress must act now to ensure rural providers receive equity and rural seniors have access to the care they deserve. Sincerely, Craig Thomas, Co-Chair (R-WY) Tom Harkin, Co-Chair (D-IA) Pat Roberts (R-KS) Kent Conrad (D-ND) Gordon Smith (R-OR) Byron L. Dorgan (D-ND) Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) Patty Murray (D-WA) Chuck Hagel (R-NE) Mark Dayton (D-MN) Pete V. Domenici (R-NM) Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) James M. Talent (R-MO) Herb Kohl (D-WI) Larry E. Craig (R-ID) Richard J. Durbin (D-IL) Jeff Sessions (R-AL) Maria Cantwell (D-WA) Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-CO) Blanche L. Lincoln (D-AR) Mike Crapo (R-ID) Tom Daschle (D-SD) Conrad Burns (R-MT) Ron Wyden (D-OR) Olympia Snowe (R-ME) John D. Rockefeller, IV (D-WV) Susan M. Collins (R-ME) Benjamin E. Nelson (D-NE) James M. Jeffords (I-VT) Mary L. Landrieu (D-LA) Tim Johnson (D-SD)