A newly formed Congressional caucus hopes to help rural hospitals stay open and increase the rural health workforce.
Earlier this year, U.S. Representatives Jill Tokuda (D-Hawaii) and Diane Harshbarger (R-Tennessee) formed the Congressional Rural Health Caucus with 47 members from both sides of the aisle. The group’s goal, the representatives said, is to help inform members of Congress about rural health issues and allow them to hear directly from patients, healthcare providers and health advocates about rural healthcare challenges.
The caucus is seeking to ensure fair and adequate reimbursement rates for Medicare and Medicaid. Two of its members have already proposed legislation to address that.
In mid-November, U.S. Representatives Carol Miller (R-West Virginia) and Terri Sewell (D-Alabama) introduced bipartisan legislation aimed at giving rural hospitals better financial stability. The Assistance for Rural Community Hospitals (ARCH) Act (H.R. 6430), would extend both the Medicare-dependent hospital program and the Medicare low-volume hospital payments program for five years.
The legislation also requires the U.S. General Accountability Office to report on rural hospital classifications to ensure that those designations are bolstering rural health care.
But Representative Miller, a caucus member, said the bill’s goal was to cut federal spending in other areas and redirect it to rural healthcare through Medicare.
“It’s just what we have to do — get rid of whatever wasteful spending that we can, and make sure that we have the money that can go into the rural areas because rural health care is very important to me,” Miller said.