Ohioans who live in rural areas deserve the same access to high-quality health care as those who live in urban areas. But too many Ohioans who don’t live in big cities are left behind when it comes to their health, and policy-makers in Washington and Columbus don’t always appreciate the unique role that hospitals and health care facilities play in rural communities.
This month I joined a bipartisan group of colleagues in outlining those unique issues for new Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price.
Many Ohioans in small towns and rural areas live miles from the nearest hospitals. Many health care providers are beginning to adapt to this challenge with innovative new technologies and forms of care, like telehealth and remote patient monitoring. These innovations allow physicians to collect important health data without patients having to drive long distances and take hours off of work to get to a doctor’s office.
Hospitals – both rural and urban – also often play a special role in their communities. They don’t just provide important health care – they provide jobs and an economic boost to their counties. But hospitals in rural and underserved areas are often punished with an unfair funding formula that results in fewer federal Medicare dollars flowing into these communities.
Ohioans who live in underserved communities should not have their access to healthcare threatened by a broken federal formula. Hospitals serving our most vulnerable areas that are economically struggling encounter enough challenges without unfair reimbursement rates further complicating their ability to care for patients.
That’s why this month I introduced bipartisan legislation to correct that Medicare reimbursement rate formula, the Fair Medicare Hospital Payments Act of 2017. By correcting this discrepancy, we can strengthen healthcare in our rural and underserved communities and help ensure patients continue to receive medical care close to home.
I will work to ensure poorly-crafted Washington regulations and formulas like this one don’t get in the way of patient access to care. Federal policies should allow our rural healthcare providers the flexibility to promote innovative care options that best serve their patients.
Senator Sherrod Brown represents Ohio in the Senate and is a guest columnist.