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Rural Healthcare Eyes MA Reforms

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, August 8, 2012

"On some quality of care services these critical access hospitals were reimbursed 70%-80% of actual costs. We wanted to bump it up to 101% of the actual cost. It is a lifeline actually because of the need for these hospitals," Pignatelli says.

"Fairview Hospital is the economic engine for the district. But because of their rural nature they were forced to get into other levels of care that they weren't being reimbursed for at all. The hospital established a dialysis unit because folks from my county were travelling up to an hour at 10 p.m. on a Sunday in the middle of winter for dialysis treatments. So these reimbursements will level the playing fields for hospitals."

The law, which supporters say could save the state nearly $200 billion over 15 years, also improves reimbursements for care provided by physician assistants and nurse practitioners. Pignatelli says that is particularly a concern for rural areas that have a hard time recruiting primary care physicians.

"Here in Western Massachusetts we have a serious lack of primary care physicians. Now we are going to be reimbursing nurse practitioners and physician assistants who hadn't been recognized before for providing quality healthcare," Pignatelli says.

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