US Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions

Sens. Harkin, Franken, Roberts, Barrasso Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Bolster Rural Health Care

Senators’ Legislation Will Help Ensure that Rural Residents Have Equal Access to Quality Care

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Today, U.S. Sens. Tom Harkin (D-IA), Al Franken (D-MN), Pat Roberts (R-KS), and John Barrasso (R-WY) introduced a bipartisan bill to help rural communities address the challenges they face when it comes to providing quality health care.

The Craig Thomas Rural Hospital and Provider Equity Act (R-HoPE) would support the efforts of rural health care systems to provide innovative, sustainable health care solutions for patients in rural America. Specifically, the legislation would extend several programs that provide access to hospitals, doctors, and ambulance services in rural areas.

“This bill would be a critical first step toward equalizing Medicare reimbursement between rural and urban areas,” said Sen. Harkin, who is Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee. “Giving Iowa’s hospitals, physicians, ambulance companies, and home health agencies the resources they need to serve the many rural communities around our  state is essential to fulfilling the promise of quality healthcare for every American. States with large rural populations face a significant disadvantage in access to healthcare compared to other parts of the country and this bill will help to ensure that Medicare patients in rural states, like Iowa, will have access to the best service regardless of where they live.”

“Providing quality health care to Minnesota’s rural communities requires innovative solutions,” said Sen. Franken, who was recently named co-chair of the Senate Rural Health Caucus, as long-serving co-chair Sen. Tom Harkin retires this year. “We can’t afford to ignore the complexities of health care delivery in our rural communities. Our bipartisan bill will help health providers expand access to quality care, and help ensure that rural residents are afforded the best possible health care regardless of their location.”

“The R-HoPE Act recognizes that rural health care providers have very different needs than their urban counterparts and that health care is not one size fits all,” said Roberts, co-chair of the Senate Rural Health Caucus. “I am glad we were able to include provisions to get rid of the ‘condition of payment’ known as the burdensome 96-hour rule, which is particularly troubling for critical access hospitals and in turn, their patients.” 

“In Wyoming, we understand the unique challenges our rural and frontier communities must overcome when people need medical care. Washington’s one-size-fits-all approach to health care simply doesn’t serve Wyoming patients well,” said Sen. Barrasso. “Our bill will help create an effective and accessible rural health care system by putting our rural providers on a level playing field with other doctors and hospitals across the country.  Most importantly, this bill ensures that folks in rural states like Wyoming have access to medical care as close to home as possible.”

You can read a summary of the bill here and download a copy of the bill here. The bill number is S. 2359.

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