Rural areas stand to benefit from Medicare modernization |

Rural areas stand to benefit from Medicare modernization

Access to health care in rural Colorado is vital to our quality of life.

I have visited several well-run rural health institutions in Colorado that often struggle to continue to provide necessary services to the communities they serve due to inadequate payments under Medicare.

Current Medicare payment policies create an unfair structure that, in several instances, reimburses rural providers less than their urban counterparts simply because of the location of the population that they serve. The reality is that the cost of delivering quality health care in rural areas is just as expensive, and in some cases, more costly than doing so in population centers with a critical mass of people.

To address this issue, I introduced the “Medicare Rural Access Preservation Act” earlier this year, a significant package that will strengthen the quality of health care in Colorado’s rural communities. My plan aims to provide increased Medicare payments to Colorado’s rural hospitals and home health care agencies.

Using provisions of my legislation as a starting point, the House of Representatives passed a $27 billion rural health package included in the Medicare Prescription Drug bill, currently under negotiation between the House and Senate.

The rural health care safety net, which all rural Coloradans count on being available when needed, depends in large part on adequate Medicare payments to ensure that small rural hospitals get reasonable reimbursements for their costs.

Failing to strengthen these hospitals through the Medicare program threatens their overall health and the health of the communities that they serve – if a rural hospital goes under, that impacts each and every person who may need health care in that area, whether they are Medicare-eligible or not.

Bolstering Medicare rates works to level the playing field for rural providers and helps avoid rising costs for all patients, thereby improving every citizen’s access to emergency care and routine services.

I have heard concerns that efforts to include prescription drug coverage in Medicare will only put increased pressure on the future stability of Medicare.

Let me be clear, the House-passed bill is designed to strengthen and modernize Medicare. This bill will harness competitive forces that will begin to control the increasing costs of the Medicare program, while providing modern health services to seniors.

Creating structures that allow competition and market forces encourages the prudent use of taxpayers’ resources, and will finally allow the federal government to get a handle on the long-term imbalances facing the Medicare program.

Medicare is outdated and needs to be modernized to incorporate additional choices for seniors to get the care they deserve, while providing fair and reasonable reimbursements to our rural providers.

– Scott McInnis of Grand Junction represents the 3rd congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives.

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