Thursday Roundup: Rural Commutes

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Discussion of Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement rates continued yesterday before a subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee. The National Rural Health Association gave testimony on what it would mean to rural health care providers if certain Medicare payments are allowed to expire at the end of this year. 

The NRHA explains those provisions here. Remember, rural providers are paid less from Medicare and Medicaid than their urban colleagues. There are some payments, however, that take into account the added cost of providing health care in rural areas.

Here is a portion of NRHA’s testimony

Several of these payment provisions were created by Congress to improve access to care in rural America, and have been successful in meeting that goal. Continuation of these payment provisions is crucial, and NRHA has long sought legislation to make the payments permanent.

However, NRHA certainly recognizes the importance of examining these Medicare provider payment policies, many of which expire on or before December 31, 2011. We agree with Chairman Herger that it is important to reexamine the impact of Medicare payment policies to ensure that they continue to improve access to care, especially for rural patients.

Rural Americans, on average, are older, sicker and poorer than their urban counterparts. Rural America needs the extension of these programs to retain physicians and promote rural physician recruitment.

Without the extension of these programs, the negative impact on the rural health infrastructure and local economies would be devastating. Medicare beneficiaries should not lose access to local services and care.

• The national average commute to work in 2010 was 25.3 minutes. The longest was in the New York metro area, where the commute was 34.6 minutes. 

Our commute here at the Yonder is about 10 seconds. We walk upstairs. Then again, we used to drive the 16 miles between Blackey and Whitesburg, Kentucky, which took a half hour if you were lucky.

What about you? What’s an average commute in rural America?

•Juliet Eilperin and Steven Mufson at the Washington Post recount the major lobbying work carried out to support the construction of a massive oil pipeline that would stretch from Canada to the Gulf Coast. 

• With a good portion of rural America either flooded or burned, it’s probably not good news when you read a headline in the Washington Post saying “FEMA funding in limbo….” 

Most Democrats voted against a government funding bill yesterday because they said it didn’t have enough in it to help those harmed by recent national disasters. Republicans are demanding that any increase in funding be offset by declines in spending.

It’s another ball of wax in Washington, D.C., meaning that FEMA funding for projects in 42 states are now on hold.

• Farm subsidies are falling worldwide, Philip Brasher reports. Across the world, farm subsidy spending fell to 18 percent of total farm receipts in 2010 from 22 percent in 2009. 

The highest farm subsidies are paid in Norway and Japan.

• The negative comments are rolling in on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s latest plan to track diseased animals, according to Food Safety News

The USDA’s first effort to track animals (the much reviled National Animal Identification System) spawned a revolt in rural America that ended when Congress shut off funding for the program. 

USDA came back with a new system that was less onerous, according to USDA officials. Commenters don’t necessarily agree. 

 

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