Amidst the hectic and ever-changing regulatory environment of healthcare, there has been a greater push for legislation specifically directed at improving health care in rural areas. Several bills were recently introduced by Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.) aimed at bolstering healthcare in rural areas by addressing infrastructure, access and quality issues common to communities struggling to meet healthcare needs without urban resources.
The first bill introduced, known as Connecting Rural Americans to Care Act of 2016, calls for improved health IT programming and coordination by: (1) creating an Interagency Task Force on Rural Health Information Technology, and (2) requiring the Federal Communications Commission to simplify and strengthen its Healthcare Connect Fund by increasing the discount the program provides on broadband services, equipment, and connections for health care providers in rural areas.
Although the healthcare community has been seeing a shift towards value-based payments and reimbursement tied to quality, the unique needs and challenges faced in the delivery of rural healthcare has been vastly unaddressed. A second bill introduced, known as the Rural Health Care Quality Improvement Act of 2016, is aimed at improving the quality of healthcare delivered, rural-based payment reforms and increasing rural representation on congressional agencies. This bill calls on the Secretary of Health and Human Services to establish a core set of measures directly tailored to the rural health system and establishes grant programs for Critical Access hospitals and other other rural providers. These grants would provide funds for innovative initiatives that support quality improvement and access efforts in rural areas.
More information on the bills introduced: