Legislation Would Increase Medicare Payments
Sens. Craig Thomas (R-Wyo.) and Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) on Tuesday introduced a bill that would create or increase some Medicare payments to rural hospitals and make a series of changes to guidelines for community clinics, ambulances, nursing homes and home heath care providers in rural areas, the Billings Gazette reports. Many of the bill's provisions would extend or modify rural health care provisions of the 2003 Medicare law.
The bill has bipartisan support from at least twelve co-sponsors, as well as the endorsement of the American Hospital Association, the National Rural Health Association and the American Ambulance Association.
The bill would remove a cap on a payment adjustment rural hospitals receive to compensate for the high volume of uninsured patients they treat. The current adjustment is 12%.
The bill also would create a payment adjustment for hospitals that have fewer than 2,000 discharges annually and are located more than 15 miles from other hospitals. Thomas said the provision would increase payments for about one-third of rural hospitals. Some of the other provisions would:
- Raise the cap on Medicare payments to rural health care clinics from $63 to $82 and extend a 5% payment adjustment to rural home health care providers;
- Eliminate some restrictions on reimbursements rural hospitals receive for ambulance services and extend a 2% payment adjustment for rural ambulance services; and
- Provide loans to help rural facilities improve infrastructure and extend a bonus payment program designed to attract providers to rural areas (Straub, Billings Gazette, 6/14).