Bill Would Provide Equality To Rural And Urban Hospitals

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Editor:

I write to express my full support for Medicare reform and prescription drug legislation that is being considered by Congress. This bill will provide a valuable benefit to our senior citizens, as well as creating more choices through private insurance plans for Medicare beneficiaries to choose from.

As Congress moves forward with such legislation, it is critical that a final Medicare bill include a Senate provision seeking full equalization of Medicare disproportionate share hospital -- or DSH -- payments.

Under the Medicare program, large urban hospitals receive greater Medicare payments under a more generous DSH payment formula than rural hospitals. As a result, Medicare payments to rural hospitals over the years have not kept pace with their urban counterparts.

In fact, the non-partisan Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, which reviews Medicare payment policies and makes recommendations to Congress, has confirmed in various reports to Congress that rural hospital Medicare inpatient and overall Medicare margins are approximately 7 percent less than urban hospitals. Full DSH equity now will go a long way toward alleviating this inequity and ensure that rural hospitals continue to offer quality health care services.

I hope that Congress passes a Medicare bill soon that includes full Medicare DSH equity for rural hospitals. It is time for rural hospitals payment equity now.

R. Chris Wolf, Chief Executive Officer, Payson Regional Medical Center

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