Committee advances Jenkins bill to shield rural hospitals from federal mandate

The House Energy and Commerce Committee recently advanced legislation introduced by Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.) to help rural hospitals struggling with federal regulations that make providing care more difficult.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) began to require physicians to supervise all outpatient therapies at critical access hospitals (CAHs) in January. The CMS change meant that outpatient procedures like blood draws needed to be supervised by a physician.

“In eastern Kansas and across America, hospitals in rural communities are being forced to comply with a regulation that makes caring for patients more difficult, while providing no additional benefits,” Jenkins said. “(The) H.R. 4067 bill will correct this problem by extending the direct supervision requirement moratorium through the end of 2014 and give rural hospitals the certainty they need to continue to provide efficient services to their communities.”

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) noted that the measure had already received “unanimous consent” in the Senate.

“It would help ensure that patients – including Medicare patients – across the country, particularly in rural communities, have access to the healthcare they need,” Upton said.

There are more than 1,300 CAHs in rural areas across the country, many of which don’t have the resources to comply with the new CMS mandate.

The American Hospital Association (AHA) said certain high-risk outpatient procedures require direct supervision; however, the CMS policy applies to even the most low-risk procedures.

“(Jenkins’) bill would provide a needed delay in enforcement of the direct supervision policy through 2014 for critical access and small rural hospitals with fewer than 100 beds,” the AHA said. “Again, we are pleased to support this bill and applaud your commitment to America’s rural hospitals and health care providers.”