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Fed Pledges to Rural Providers Strike the Right Notes

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, February 6, 2013

In addition, Conway says the Obama administration has already implemented key reforms that were recommended in May 2012 during the White House Rural Stakeholder meeting.

Those include the final rule of the physician fee schedule, which was amended to allow nurse practitioners and physicians' assistants to order portable X-rays.

"This recognizes the important role these providers play in rural clinics and hospitals and the need for flexibility," Conway says. "Lastly we made changes to the electronic health records incentive payments. We now allow cause to include capital lease costs for the purpose of determining their electronic health records incentive payments."

Vilsack, the former Iowa governor, told the teleconference that the reforms and proposed reforms "reflect an understanding that rural America—and those who serve, live, work, and raise in rural America—is potentially a different place than suburban and urban areas and requires a different thought process as it relates to regulations."

"Providing greater flexibility, expanding the leverage of resources, recognizing the various professions that are engaged in healthcare providing in rural areas from dieticians to physicians' assistants and others, allowing flexibility in outpatient services, recognizing that swing beds in hospitals may need different survey requirements, all of that is reflective of an attitude that we are trying to make life easier and at the same time improve health services," Vilsack says.

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