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House Bill Targets MU Parity for Rural Health Clinics

Alexandra Wilson Pecci, for HealthLeaders Media, November 30, 2011

Several months ago, I wrote about efforts to correct a glitch in the 2009 economic stimulus law that would have made rural health clinics ineligible for meaningful use incentive payments.

The calls for the correction have been heard: On the first annual National Rural Health Day earlier this month, Congressman Aaron Schock (R-IL) introduced legislation to correct the error.

If passed, H. R. 3458 would be a victory for rural health clinics. In fact, Aric Sharp, CEO of Quincy, IL-based Quincy Medical Group, tells HealthLeaders that it’s "the single most important achievement for RHCs in recent history."

It should also serve as a powerful reminder that rural health organizations don’t have to be voiceless or marginalized.

But that’s exactly how many of them feel. Sharp says that even as his organization rallied support for fixing the error, he often heard people suggest that nothing could be done. Throughout the process, he and his colleagues learned that rural health clinics need a much stronger voice in the national dialogue.

"Many rural health clinics we talked to just didn’t feel like their issues were getting enough attention. It has become all too common for policymakers to overlook, while certainly not intentionally, how legislation affects the 3,500 rural health clinics across our country," Sharp tells HealthLeaders via e-mail. "I believe the introduction of this legislation demonstrates that rural health clinics can have a strong voice if they are willing to put in the effort to bring awareness and offer solutions on the Hill that are palatable." 

Moreover, it shows that there are strong rural health advocates in Congress, such as Representatives Schock, Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Bill Huizenga (R-MI), Dennis Rehberg (R-MT), and Greg Walden (R-OR), Sharp says.

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