Bennet, Bipartisan Group of Senators Fight to Ensure Health Care Policies Support Rural Communities

Express Rural Concerns to Administration Before Finalization of Health Care Policies

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) joined Senators Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and John Thune (R-SD) and a group of 32 senators to convey concerns to the Administration that federal rules for health care facilities do not adequately consider the needs of rural communities.

In a letter to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Marilyn Tavenner, the senators pressed for details about whether and how the agency is incorporating rural health care experts earlier in the rule-drafting process. They also called for comprehensive information on the rulemaking process. Noting that recent policy decisions have not adequately reflected the reality of health delivery in rural areas, the senators called on CMS to work toward practices and standards that take rural health facilities into account during its initial rulemaking process. Such efforts would help make sure seniors, families, veterans, and others can access services they need in their communities, rather than forcing them to travel long distances for care.

In the letter to CMS Administrator Tavenner the senators wrote:

"We remain concerned these policy decisions do not reflect the reality of providing care in rural communities, and we request additional details on these consultation efforts in advance of future rulemaking. The proportion of elderly rural Americans continues to grow, and even small policy changes or incremental payment adjustments have a significant impact on access to care in rural areas. Medicare beneficiaries should be able to obtain care within their own communities when possible, and we are committed to ensuring federal policies recognize and incorporate the unique challenges rural providers face."

Click here to view the full version of the letter.

The National Rural Health Association (NRHA) and the American Hospital Association (AHA) both support the senators' letter.

Bennet, Heitkamp, and Thune were joined in the letter by Senators Tim Johnson (D-SD), John Hoeven (R-ND), John Barrasso (R-WY), John Tester (D-MT), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Susan Collins (R-ME), David Vitter (R-LA), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Mike Enzi (R-WY), Dan Coats (R-IN), Richard Burr (R-NC), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Thad Cochran (R-MS), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Mike Johanns (R-NE), Mark Pryor (D-AR), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Angus King (I-ME), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), John Cornyn (R-TX), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Mark Udall (D-CO), and Al Franken (D-MN).