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Congress passes Bennet rural health amendment with budget

Bipartisan, fiscally-responsible measure establishes reserve fund devoted to improving access to primary health care in rural areas

Colorado

Michael Bennet, U.S. Senator for Colorado, April 30, announced congressional passage of his bipartisan amendment to the Budget Resolution that will expand access to quality, affordable health care in rural areas without adding to the federal deficit. The amendment, cosponsored by Senator Pat Roberts, R-KS, was included in the final Budget Resolution which was approved late April 29.

For years, payment disparities between rural and urban areas in Medicare and Medicaid have discouraged providers from staying in rural communities and underfunded hospitals that serve as a safety-net for Colorado's rural communities. The Bennet-Roberts amendment creates a deficit-neutral (PAYGO) reserve fund to address systemic inequities in the Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements program that impede access to primary care and outpatient services, hospitals and an adequate supply of a health care workforce.

"The health care systems we have in place right now are not meeting the needs of our small towns. Rural communities should have the same access to health care as our urban communities," Bennet said. "My bipartisan amendment will help make sure that Colorado's rural communities aren't left in the dust as we move forward on comprehensive health care reform."

In Colorado, over 90 percent of counties are considered Health Professional Shortage Areas; six counties do not have a full-time primary care physician; and 14 counties do not even have a hospital.

The Bennet-Roberts' amendment has been endorsed by, among others, the National Rural Health Association, the Colorado Rural Health Center and the Colorado Hospital Association.



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