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Legal 'Oversight' May Leave Rural Health Clinics Behind

Alexandra Wilson Pecci, for HealthLeaders Media, July 6, 2011

A seemingly small omission from the 2009 economic stimulus law could spell big trouble for the country's thousands of rural health clinics.

The problem? If you're billing the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services on an HCFA 1500 form, you're eligible for meaningful use incentive payments; if you're billing on a UB-04 form—which certified rural health clinics are required to do—you're not.

"They've simply been left out because they're billing on a different form," Aric Sharp, CEO of Quincy, IL-based Quincy Medical Group, said in an interview. "That's a pretty big oversight. There's about 3,700 rural health clinics across the country."

Now, Quincy Medical Group, which has rural affiliates throughout Illinois and Missouri, is spearheading an effort to make what Sharp calls a "technical correction" to the bill.

"We're trying to change the law so that physicians that practice in rural health clinics are able to participate in these quality programs," he says.

Sharp says Quincy Medical Group began its effort to change the law by reaching out to other stakeholders who were affected by the oversight. Now, he says there's a formal coalition made up of players such as the National Rural Health Association, the American Medical Group Association, and various rural health clinics and associations from around the country. In advocating for the change, the coalition has discovered lots of receptivity from people on Capitol Hill, including Congressman Greg Walden (R-OR).

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