By Ryan Kelly –
Delegates from the Mississippi Rural Health Association traveled to Washington last week (week of February 5th) to attend the NRHA Policy Institute as well as visit with elected officials in the House and Senate. Delegates included Michael Nester, H.C. Watkins; Zach Allen, Children’s International; Joanie Perkins, North Sunflower; and Paul Gardner, MS Hospital Association.
We are pleased to say that our needs were many but our ask was simple – support the Continuing Resolution bill, which provided needed funding and regulatory relief asked in our 2018 Legislative Packet.
And, we are more pleased to say that the CR bill passed the House and the Senate. Our concerns were heard through our visits with Sens. Cochran and Wicker and Reps. Harper, Palazzo, Kelly and Thompson.
Sen. Wicker may have said it best when he paused in our conversation, reflected, and said “it’s a lot of money, but there’s a lot of need, and if we’re going to continue to be a first world country, then we need to fund what is needed to do just that.” We appreciate the candor of all of our legislators and the hard decision that it is to balance a budget, provide tax relief and regulatory relief, and fund the programs that we all need. It’s not an easy job.
The C.R. Bill accomplished the following
2 year extension of federal qualified health centers (community health centers)
Averts FY18 and FY19 Medicaid Disproportionate Share Hospital reductions
Provides a 2 year extension of public health programs:
- National Health Service Corps
- Teaching health Center Graduate Medical Education
- Family-to-Family Health Information Centers
- Sexual risk avoidance education programs
- Personal responsibility education program
- Special Diabetes Program for Type 1 Diabetes and the Special Diabetes Program for Indians
Provides Permanent Medicare Changes
- Repeal Medicare payment cap for therapy services
- Removal of the rental cap for durable medical equipment under Medicare with respect to speech generating devices
2 year extension of Medicare policies
- Funding for quality measure endorsement, input, and selection
- Medicare-Dependent hospital and Low-Volume hospital programs
- Geographic Practice Cost Indices (GPCI) floor for physician payments
5 year extension of Medicare policies with reforms
- Home health rural add-on payment
- Ground ambulance add-ons
Telehealth provisions including:
- Expanding access to home dialysis therapy
- Increasing convenience for Medicare Advantage enrollees through telehealth
- Providing accountable care organizations (ACOs) the ability to expand the use of telehealth
- Expanding the use of telehealth for individuals with stroke