Rural Telehealth Cliff Averted
No matter how you feel about what has been going on in Washington, the people providing telehealth care at rural health clinics, members of the National Rural Healthcare Association, are breathing sighs of relief today.
Among the pork (e.g. money to subsidize Hollywood movie and TV production), the bill Congress passed and the President signed contained clauses that prevented hundreds of millions of dollars in rural health cuts. The action reinstates critical Medicare reimbursement payments to more than 850 rural hospitals and averted cuts to rural primary physicians and rural ambulance providers.
Other elements that might have been overlooked in the bill were those reinstating the Medicare Dependent Hospital program and the Low-Volume Hospital adjustment. Both expired October 1st. Had these not been in the measure, many rural facilities that are already fiscally fragile would have had to shut down.
Like a lot of things in the bill, these are all meant to keep things going until Congress decides what and where to cut spending. The bill delayed the across-the-board sequestration cuts for just two months. All rural payments were given only a one-year extension, and there are likely to be additional calls for funding cuts in the near term. I hope that the National Rural Health Association uses the delay to generate data that shows just how valuable rural telehealth is.