AHA Pushes PARTS Bill for Rural Hospitals

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media , August 6, 2014

Looks like when lawmakers return next month, Congress will retroactively approve another stopgap measure related to oversight of outpatient therapy services at critical access and small rural hospitals.

Things have gotten so dysfunctional in the U.S. Capitol that Congress can't even act on a bill to delay something.

Since 2012 Congress has suspended a Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services rule that requires direct physician oversight of outpatient therapy services at critical access and small rural hospitals.

The oversight rule was suspended because it proved particularly burdensome in areas where physicians tend to be in short supply. The practical effect was that relatively routine outpatient services such as drawing blood were restricted or even eliminated because physicians weren't readily available to provide immediate supervision.

That delay of the oversight rule actually expired on Jan. 1, 2014, but Congress has signaled that it will continue to delay the rule while lawmakers work on a more permanent fix. (Sound familiar?)

Now, more than halfway through 2014, it looks like Congress will retroactively approve another stopgap measure for 2014 when lawmakers return next month following a long summer vacation.

The Senate approved the delay by unanimous consent this spring, and a House version is set for a floor vote after easily clearing committee in July. Also, there does not appear to be any fiscal note tied to the legislation.

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