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Cole, Kind Introduce Fairness for Rural Medicare Beneficiaries Act

October 21, 2021
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04) and Congressman Ron Kind (WI-03) today introduced the Fairness for Rural Medicare Beneficiaries Act. This bipartisan legislation would change an existing policy that requires Medicare beneficiaries at rural critical access hospitals (CAHs) to pay more in coinsurance than patients who receive the same care at larger acute care hospitals.

“I am proud to join my colleague Congressman Ron Kind in introducing bipartisan legislation that improves access and affordability of hospitals for older Americans living in rural communities. Specifically, our commonsense bill, the Fairness for Rural Beneficiaries Act, brings needed parity for Medicare beneficiaries to the costs associated with receiving care, whether that is in a rural or urban facility,” said Congressman Tom Cole, Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies.

"Critical Access Hospitals serve families across Wisconsin, especially in rural regions, but many Medicare beneficiaries are stuck paying higher prices just because of where they obtain care. The Fairness for Rural Medicare Beneficiaries Act will help right this wrong and make sure Medicare beneficiaries aren't financially penalized for accessing care close to home," said Congressman Ron Kind.

“The National Rural Health Association (NRHA) applauds Representatives Cole and Kind for introducing the Fairness for Rural Medicare Beneficiaries Act. Under current law, when a patient goes to a critical access hospital (CAH) they are billed 20 percent of the cost of charges submitted to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). In other hospital settings, because they’re reimbursed through a different fee schedule, patients are billed 20 percent of the reasonable costs determined by CMS for that procedure. Unfortunately, what this looks like on the ground is rural patients being charged more for coinsurance because of where they obtain care geographically. This is wrong. NRHA applauds Representatives Cole and Kind for introducing this important legislation to eliminate what is essentially a tax on patients seeking care in rural communities,” said Alan Morgan, Chief Executive Officer of the National Rural Health Association.

“The Oklahoma Hospital Association supports Rep. Cole’s introduction of the Fairness for Rural Medicare Beneficiaries Act. This is a commonsense approach for rural Medicare patients and their local critical access hospitals. This legislation levels the playing field for hospitals and patients in rural areas. No longer will rural patients be forced to pay higher out-of-pocket (co-insurance) costs for outpatient services that can be provided close to home,” said Patti Davis, President, Oklahoma Hospital Association.

“We support the Fairness for Rural Medicare Beneficiaries Act to eliminate the out of pocket payment difference between acute care facilities and critical access hospitals.  Medicare patients in rural Oklahoma or rural Wisconsin shouldn’t have to pay more out of pocket at critical access hospitals.  This bill will level the playing field,” said Laura Kaiser, President and Chief Executive Officer, SSM Health.

Bill text is available here.

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