WASHINGTON, DC –Today, U.S. Senators John Barrasso (R-WY) and Tina Smith (D-MN) introduced the bipartisan Rural Health Clinic Modernization Act (S. 1037). The bill provides regulatory relief for rural health clinics while also improving reimbursements for these important facilities.
“As a doctor from a rural state, I want all patients to have access to high-quality care wherever they live,” Sen. Barrasso said. “Rural health clinics have a long record of making sure that folks in rural communities receive primary care close to home. I am proud to help lead this bipartisan effort to strengthen rural health clinics so they will continue to serve patients in Wyoming and across rural America.”
“We need to do everything we can to make sure that people in rural areas are able to get healthcare,” Sen. Smith said. “While there have been significant changes in the health care system, many of the laws focusing on Rural Health Clinics haven’t been updated in over 40 years. Our bipartisan bill would fix some of the old rules that are in need of these upgrades. For example, it expands the ability of physician assistants and nurse practitioners to provide care in these clinics. This legislation is really about making sure at the end of the day people are going to be able to get the vital care Rural Health Clinics provide in underserved, rural areas.”
Rural Health Clinics (RHCs) were established through the Rural Health Clinic Services Act of 1977. The purpose of RHCs was to address the shortage of health care providers serving in rural communities, including advanced practice clinicians.
There are approximately 4,100 rural health clinics operating in the United States. Rural Health Clinics are an important part of the rural health care safety net, with facilities heavily dependent on Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement.
The law governing rural health clinics is more than 30 years old. This is why the National Advisory Committee on Rural Health and Human Services recommended updating the statute to meet the needs of the modern health care system.
The Rural Health Clinic Modernization Act:
• Updates how advanced practice clinicians are utilized by RHCs, bringing the statute up to date with current state laws.
• Updates the statute regarding laboratory requirements and delivery of telehealth services.
• Increases reimbursements for RHCs. Currently, RHCs are paid an all-inclusive rate for the care they provide. This rate has not been legislatively updated since 1988. This legislation updates reimbursements to better reflect the quality of care provided by RHCs.