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307 Dirksen Senate
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Phone: 202-224-6441
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Wyoming Office
P.O. Box 22201
Casper, WY 82602
307-261-6413


 

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Rural Health
I am committed to increasing access to health care, attracting quality providers, and making health care more affordable in Wyoming. Rural health care issues are a vital part of protecting our state’s quality of life. As a leader in the Senate Rural Health Caucus, I will address Wyoming’s unique needs and continue to ensure that rural health care remains at the forefront of the health care debate.

As Republican Co-Chairman of the Senate Rural Health Caucus, I work collaboratively with the Co-Chairman, Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), to present a unified voice for quality, accessible, and affordable health care in rural areas. More than 80 senators serve on this caucus founded in 1985 as a forum to exchange ideas and information.

The Caucus worked hard on many of the rural provisions included in the Prescription Drug and Medicare Improvement Act of 2003. This measure included a $25 billion allocation dedicated to rural health initiatives -- the most comprehensive attempt to put rural providers on a level playing field with urban providers. The rural hospital provisions in the Medicare bill will:

  1. Increase payments to Wyoming hospitals by approximately $56 million over 10 years.
  2. Make the equalization of the standardized payment level between rural and urban hospitals permanent.
  3. Lower the labor-related share of the wage index from 71 percent to 62 percent which will boost payments to rural hospitals.
  4. Extend the current hold harmless for rural hospitals from the Outpatient Prospective Payment System.
  5. Create a new, low-volume payment to recognize the different economies of scale distinctive to small rural hospitals.
  6. Ensure hospitals with less than 800 annual discharges receive up to a 25 percent increase in inpatient payments.
  7. Strengthen the Critical Access Hospital (CAH) program by providing flexibility within the 25 bed limit for acute care and swing beds, reimbursing at 101 percent of cost, and offering payments for nurses, physician assistants and clinical nurse specialists who are on-call for emergency care.
  8. Increase payments for rural physicians.
  9. Provide a 5 percent bonus payment to rural home health agencies
  10. Increase payments to rural ambulance providers.

While we have had many legislative successes that benefit rural providers, there is much more work still to be done. Health care does not have a political party, and people should not suffer because Democrats and Republicans do not always agree. We must reach across the aisle to achieve consensus on how best to provide quality, easily accessible health care.



Related News Items
 06-13-06 Thomas: R-HoPE Keeps Rural America in Mind
 03-17-06 Thomas Praises Restoration of Rural Health Funds
 12-13-05 Thomas: 70 Percent of Rural Health Cuts Remain
 12-12-05 Thomas Seeks To Restore Rural Health Funding
 11-17-05 Thomas Demands Equity for Rural Health
 11-04-05 Thomas’ Rural Health Bill Passes Senate
 10-21-05 Thomas Touches on UW’s Role in Rural Health
 05-04-05 Thomas: Rural Health Needs Are Paramount
 04-21-05 Thomas to Meet with Wyoming’s Rural Health Leaders
 04-20-05 SENIORS MENTAL HEALTH ACCESS IMPROVEMENT ACT OF 2005
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