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Rural Healthcare Advocates Rip MedPAC's Claims on Access, Reimbursement

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, June 27, 2012

"MedPAC says based on their interviews with different beneficiaries and some of their data, that because the number of encounters that a senior beneficiary has with a provider is relatively similar between a rural and an urban area, then that must not be an access problem," she says.

"But in the following sentence they state the reason that this is fairly similar is because rural patients have to travel to urban centers. To us that is so frustrating. That is the definition of an access problem if you are forced to travel to urban areas to get healthcare."

The second red flag flaps at MedPAC's suggestion that reimbursements to rural providers are on par with urban providers, if not better. Rural providers interpret those comments as a threat to the status of the 200 or so Medicare Designated Hospitals in this country with 100 beds or fewer that get a slightly higher reimbursement because 60% or more of their patients are Medicare beneficiaries.  

In letters this week to the chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate "money committees" 23 advocacy groups, including NRHA and 11 state hospital associations, call for the extension of the Medicare Dependent Hospital designation, which will expire on Oct. 1 if Congress fails to act.

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