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Rural America an Afterthought in GOP Health Plan

Analysis  |  By John Commins  
   March 08, 2017

An initial review shows that the American Health Care Act does little to address healthcare access woes in rural America.

House Republicans this week made public their replacement plan for the Affordable Care Act. The so-called American Health Care Act does not have much support beyond House leadership, but before it collapses under relentless blowback from all corners, let's look at what it might have done for rural health.

Maggie Elehwany, government affairs and policy vice president at the nonpartisan National Rural Health Association, is still sifting through the fine print, but she offered a few thoughts after an initial reading of the proposed law.

"Our concern is that it does nothing to address basic access issues," she says.

"We're in the midst of a rural hospital closure crisis, where at the current rate of closure we are going to lose 25% of all rural hospitals in this country in less than a decade if Congress doesn't act. One in three rural hospitals is currently at financial risk and is vulnerable to closure. That is what we need to see in any healthcare reform bill."

"Because this bill specifically reformats Medicaid, we would have liked to have seen them address Medicaid equity for rural providers," Elehwany says.

"We have concerns over the phasing out of the FMAP and introducing the per capita cap. We strongly support the federal government's maintaining its moral obligation to ensure that Medicaid funding goes to needed populations. Rural America is disproportionately dependent upon Medicaid. They are poorer, they are sicker, they are per capita older."

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John Commins is a content specialist and online news editor for HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand.


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