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Medicare-Dependent Hospital Payments to Expire Oct. 1

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, September 26, 2012

"We have about 24 sponsors on the bill, which is good news. We anticipated that this would expire on Oct. 1,  but our goal is to make retroactive payments," Elehwany tells HealthLeaders Media. "Congress has done this in the past. When the sustainable growth rate expired, they made retroactive payments to physicians as seamless as possible. It’s not ideal, but it’s the only situation we have right now. We are going to continue fighting for it in the lame duck session."

These days, it’s rare to find optimism for the success of any legislation, especially if it has a price tag, in this gridlocked and dysfunctional Congress. Elehwany, however, says rural providers have a strong and bipartisan argument for the legislation that makes fiscal sense and addresses critical access-to-care issues.

"Once we have their ear, the story is very compelling," she says. "It is not a costly provision. The budget score estimates are about $100 million over 10 years. That is a decimal point by Congressional standards. Once we give them the empirical data that shows the cost effectiveness of rural hospitals and they can provide Medicare coverage at 3.7% less than urban areas and have that primary care focus the argument makes itself."

"Even the most fiscally conservative folks—a lot of them are on the bill—see the importance of keeping that hospital open for their local communities and it makes sense for the taxpayers as well. It’s a strong argument. We are just running out of time."

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