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What does 2012 Election mean to Rural America?

The Presidential race was called last night at 11:12 p.m., 12 minutes later than in 2008.  President Obama, in a victory speech, pledged more bipartisanship.  However, because the status quo was maintained in Congress (with the Democrats maintaining control of the Senate and the Republicans maintaining control of the House of Representatives), will the current fiscal stalemates be resolved? Rural providers and patients continue to have much on the line – three payments for rural hospitals have already been allowed to expire by the current Congress, and threats to other rural provider payments, as well as appropriations were the norm on Capitol Hill.  Much legislatively has to be accomplished when the lame duck Congress returns November 13 - - addressing the fiscal cliff as well as the expired or soon-to-expire rural Medicare extenders (click here for a complete list), and the devastating impact of sequestration on the rural providers.  Please join our grassroots conversation for how you can help (send a blank email to join-grassroots@lists.wisc.edu). In January, will it be a Congress that remains partisanly divided or will today’s tone of unity win the day?  It’s much too early to know, but here are some interesting tidbits from last night’s election.
  • The newly elected Senate will be 53 Democrats, 45 Republicans and 2 Independents (who will likely caucus with Democrats).
  • The newly elected House will likely be 237 Republican to 198 Democrats (still counting certain races), which would represent a pick-up of 8 Democratic seats.
  • A record number of 19 women will be in the U.S. Senate
  • Further legislative challenges to the ACA (the Affordable Care Act or health care reform) bill will be difficult; however Republican governors will likely continue attempts to thwart implementation.
  • And, even though legislatively the ACA will likely remain intact, look for funding of it to continue to be reduced as Congress looks to find dollars to help with the fiscal cliff and prevention of physician payment cuts (the SGR problem).  “Prevention” funding continues to be the most vulnerable.
  • Expect continued roll-out of ACA regulations by the Obama Administration.  In fact, this week, the Administration is expected to begin issuing a backlog of rules and regulations regarding ACA implementation.
  • Additionally, the Obama Administration likely will have to act immediately to avoid mandated spending cuts under sequestration -- including the 2% cuts to rural Medicare providers.
  • Voters in Florida yesterday rejected a ballot initiative that would have blocked the implementation of the ACA's individual mandate, while voters in Alabama, Missouri and Wyoming approved similar measures.
  • Today’s Prediction: Because of the disappointing showing by Republicans in the U.S. Senate (earlier in the year, the Republicans had a very strong chance of winning back the Senate from Democrats), look for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to be challenged in January for his leadership position.
Stay tuned …much, more to follow.

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