Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Influencing Rural Healthcare Policy with NACRHHS

I just attended my last meeting as a member of the National Advisory Committee for Rural Health and Human Services. This committee is made up of men and women from all across our nation from Alaska to Maine, Florida to Montana. Members include doctors, nurse practitioners, academics, politicians, Medicare officials, association leaders and hospital administrators. The committee is well-supported by staff from the Office of Rural Health Policy. Our primary responsibility is to advise the Secretary of Health and Human Services on rural policy issues. It has been a privilege to serve with these fine folks. They take this job seriously and we get into some very healthy debates about what is best for the people of rural America.

Twice a year, the committee takes a field trip and this most recent meeting was held in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, hosted by our committee chair and former Governor of Mississippi, Ronnie Musgrove.

My subcommittee was charged to make recommendations to Secretary Sibelius about the new primary care payment changes for physicians and other healthcare providers. The proposed rule for this provision in the Affordable Care Act was just published in July and my sense is that most providers don't know much about it. One of our recommendations will likely be that HHS needs to gets more information so providers can prepare for these upcoming changes. Much like value based payment (VBP) for hospitals, this provision in the law will reward providers that enhance quality and reduce resource use for Medicare patients in their practices. Although this idea has been trialed in a number of practices around the country, it was not tested in rural communities.

We will likely be completing our briefing paper to the Secretary in the next several weeks. There is additional information at the NACRHHS website. Also on this website are other reports and briefing papers the committee has completed, including the most recent on the demonstration project on VBP for smaller hospitals, insurance exchanges, and aging.

I will miss these meetings for two major reasons. I will miss the truly wonderful people who serve on and supoprt the committee and also the opportunity to have input into the executive branch of government. I believe this committee has helped to address concerns and issues that impact people in rural America. I send all my best wishes to the committee as a new group of members join those who continue their terms of service.

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