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NRHA disappointed in tentative budget deal

Late Monday night, Congressional leaders and the White House reached a tentative budget deal that would raise the debt limit, avoid a shutdown in December, and would set spending levels through September 2017. The National Rural Health Association is disappointed that the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 includes site-neutral payment cuts on hospital outpatient departments (HOPDs) and the extension of sequestration for Medicare payments. Rural hospitals play a critical role in providing 24/7 access to care and are the safety net providers for rural America. The extension of the 2 percent cut in Medicare payments, which was first passed under the sequester, comes during a time when rural hospitals are already closing because of drastic cuts. “Rural hospitals are closing at a record rate,” says Maggie Elehwany, NRHA’s vice president of government affairs. “We have seen 57 rural hospitals close since 2010, and another 283 rural hospitals are on the brink. Since the start of 2013, more rural hospitals have closed than in the previous 10 years combined, and rural communities across the nation are feeling the crisis in tragic ways. Our rural hospitals cannot shoulder any more cuts.” The deal would provide $50 billion in fiscal year 2016 and $30 billion in fiscal year 2017 in sequester relief for both defense and non-defense spending, but hospitals would be left out in the cold.  Raising spending now in return for cuts further down the road has serious consequences for hospitals and providers that depend on Medicare reimbursements to keep their doors open to serve the older, poorer and sicker rural population. NRHA will continue to advocate for strong funding for the rural health care safety net. Members of Congress must hear from you in support of critical rural health programs and to protect access points that will be impacted by this deal. Continue to follow NRHA’s blog for the latest news from Capitol Hill. Join the fight to protect health care in your community. Contact your members of Congress today and let them know how important your facility is to your community. And plan now to meet with the Obama administration, your congressional members and national experts at NRHA’s 27th annual Rural Health Policy Institute Feb. 2-4 in D.C. Rural America is counting on you. Register today and save $100.

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