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Cuts to Rural Medicare Providers Prevented

H.R. 6331 moves forward in the Senate with a $2 billion rural package

WASHINGTON, July 9 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- On July 9, the Senate overwhelmingly voted to clear a procedural hurdle on critical legislation to protect access to health care in rural America by a vote of 69 to 30. H.R. 6331, the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act, provides $2 billion in necessary rural health care dollars and fixes the cuts to Medicare reimbursement rates to physicians.

The legislation earlier passed the House 355 to 59. Both votes were sufficient to override a threatened presidential veto.

In an unexpected turn of events, Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) joined in this historic vote. As a long-time champion of vulnerable populations, his influence was a catalyst for the vote.

The National Rural Health Association (NRHA) strongly advocates for passage of the bill, which provides critical dollars to rural America and eliminates the pending 10.6 percent cut in Medicare payments to physicians through December 2009. The rural health care provisions total more than $2 billion.

"This is a decisive victory for the health of America's rural seniors. H.R. 6331 contains a strong rural package that will both protect the rural health safety net and the health of the tens of millions of seniors who call rural America home," said Alan Morgan, CEO of the NRHA.

Rural provisions in H.R. 6331 include:

-- Improves payments for sole community and critical access hospitals.

-- Extends FLEX grants for health care in rural communities.

-- Improves access to ambulance services.

-- Extends expiring rural provisions.

-- Payments for rural physicians.

-- Special treatment of certain physician pathology services.

-- Exceptions process for therapy caps.

-- Improves access to speech-language pathology services.

-- Improves access to telehealth services.

-- Retains access to Medicare Advantage.

-- Helps pharmacists serve seniors.

For more information, visit

The NRHA is a nonprofit organization working to improve the health and well-being of rural Americans and providing leadership on rural health issues through advocacy, communications, education and research.

SOURCE National Rural Health Association
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