Aaron Schock

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Schock Introduces Rural Health Clinics Legislation

Legislation Aims to Correct Error on Day the Nation Highlights the Importance of Rural Health Care

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Washington, Nov 17, 2011 | comments

Congressman Aaron Schock (R-IL) introduced legislation today to correct an error that is currently preventing rural health clinics (RHC’s) from being eligible for electronic health record incentive payments through the Medicare program. By making this change it will ensure seniors in rural areas can continue to rely on their local doctors for quality health care using up-to-date technology while keeping the cost of receiving care affordable. Without this change, the cost for rural clinics will increase as the demand for their health care services grows. This revision will allow rural health clinics to operate under the same guidelines as other hospitals and health care clinics throughout the country.

“Making this technical correction and ensuring our ability to participate in the Medicare program’s quality efforts, as Congress originally intended, is simply a matter of fundamental fairness,” said Aric Sharp, CEO of Quincy Medical Group.” On behalf of the 100 physicians here at Quincy Medical Group, and the more than 150,000 patients we treat annually, I applaud Representative Schock for his vision and leadership.  His legislation is critical for those living in rural America who depend on rural health clinics for their daily healthcare needs. And with nearly all primary care in Quincy and its surrounding area being provided through the Rural Health Clinic program, passage of this legislation will help ensure high quality healthcare in this region – and throughout rural America for generations to come.”

RHCs were created to address physician understaffing in rural areas and improve access to primary care services. RHCs use a team-based approach of physicians and midlevel medical providers, such as Nurse Practitioners and Physicians Assistants, to provide a variety of health care services. Schock’s no-cost legislation corrects current law so RHC providers can be eligible for electronic health record (EHR) incentive payments through the Medicare program.

Due to the unique reimbursement structure of RHCs, their healthcare providers are not eligible for EHR incentive payments. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) are the entity charged with the development of EHR meaningful user criteria. Their flawed methodology has led to RHCs becoming excluded from the EHR incentive payments, despite the fact that they provide quality health care to Medicare beneficiaries in rural areas. 

“RHCs should not be discriminated against simply because they bill Medicare differently than hospitals or other health care practitioners who practice in rural areas. I represent 20 counties in Illinois, several of which include health clinics that are penalized by this accounting error. This is a flaw in the system that needs to be fixed,” said Schock. “The last year an eligible provider can start participation in the Medicare EHR incentive program is 2014. Therefore, it is imperative for Congress to quickly level the playing field for health care providers who choose to practice medicine in RHCs.”

According to the National Rural Health Day website, one in five Americans, or nearly 62 million people, live and work in rural communities across the country. The website further cites that these rural communities also have unique healthcare needs. Stating that today more than ever, rural communities must address accessibility issues, a lack of healthcare providers, the needs of an aging population suffering from a greater number of chronic conditions, and larger percentages of un- and underinsured citizens. And rural hospitals – which are often the economic foundation of their communities in addition to being the primary providers of care – struggle daily as declining reimbursement rates and disproportionate funding levels make it challenging to serve their residents.

Joining Congressman Schock are Representatives Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Washington State; Bill Huizenga, Michigan; Dennis Rehberg, Montana; and Greg Walden, Oregon.

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