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Hospital Medicare Funds Get Bipartisan Push

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, December 12, 2012

First and foremost, as the number of sponsors makes clear, protecting rural hospitals is a bipartisan effort because every Senator represents scores of rural hospitals. The 31 senators who signed the letter were led by Sens. Charles E. Schumer, D-NY and Chuck Grassley, R-IA. There are few topics in the lame duck Congress that a bipartisan group of more than 30 Senators could agree on.

Second, lawmakers made it clear in their letter that they understand that these Medicare-dependent and low-volume hospitals provide vital access to healthcare in remote areas.

They understand this because the many advocates for rural health, including the NRHA and the American Hospital Association have made it abundantly clear what would happen if these hospitals were allowed to fail.

In addition, lawmakers acknowledge that most of these hospitals are the largest employers in their areas. If they shutter communities lose healthcare access and healthcare jobs and the economic effect of those lost jobs reverberates in the community.

A lot of people are hurt and somebody in elected office will be held accountable. In other words, there are direct and linkable consequences for members of Congress who fail to protect rural hospitals.

Third, for Medicare-dependent hospitals, the amount needed to fund their status is about $100 million over 10 years. By Congressional standards, that's pocket change.

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