Expiring Rural Healthcare Programs Gain Congressional Focus

Congress returned to Washington this week to a heavy healthcare agenda, which includes several bills important to rural hospitals grouped in what is called Medicare extenders.

Most of these Medicare policies expire either Oct. 1 or Dec. 31. In the past, these extenders routinely have been renewed for one- and two-year periods of time in order to reduce the budget score for the cost of these Medicare programs. However, each time the extenders are up for renewal there is concern the programs may be allowed to expire.

With so many rural hospitals across the country in financial distress or closing– especially in Tennessee – the Medicare extender package is of particular importance. THA has urged members of the Tennessee congressional delegation to support the extension of these policies. The Medicare extender policies under consideration for extension include:

  • Medicare dependent hospital program
  • Low-volume hospital adjustment
  • Current rural ambulance payment program
  • Exceptions process for Medicare therapy caps
  • Physician fee schedule geographic index adjustment under the work portion of the fee
These Medicare extenders and others may be moved forward as a single legislative package or may be wrapped into a larger bill that includes the extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which also expires on Oct. 1.
THA staff will continue to monitor and lobby these legislative priorities and keep members informed of any action. Hospitals are urged to write or call Tennessee’s U.S. Senators and tell them about your concerns.
For more information, contact Casey Dungan at THA, 615-256-8240.