Representative Bradley Byrne

Representing the 1st District of Alabama

Byrne Leads Bipartisan Support for Rural Hospitals

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Jun 27, 2019
Press Release

Representatives Bradley Byrne (R-AL), Phil Roe (R-TN), Terri Sewell (D-AL), Brad Wenstrup, D.P.M (R-OH), Jodey Arrington (R-TX), and Jason Smith (R-MO) led 90 colleagues in a letter to Secretary Alex Azar of the Department of Health & Human Services and Administrator Seema Verma of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services in support of finalizing their efforts to reform the Medicare Area Wage Index.

Congressman Byrne“For thirty years, Medicare dollars that should have gone to Alabama have instead been going to large, urban areas of the country because of the Wage Index. This unjustified disparity in payments has contributed to budgetary shortfalls and hospital closures in Alabama. This is a real crisis. When the Trump Administration came into office, I asked them to take immediate steps to correct this issue, and this letter shows strong, bipartisan support for finalizing the important reforms the Trump Administration has proposed. Rural Americans deserve access to a hospital, and I will continue working with this Administration to advocate for them in Congress.”

Congressman Roe: “For too long, rural hospitals have been on an unequal playing field because of the Medicare area wage index, a figure that greatly distorts Medicare payments. States like Tennessee have such a low area wage index that it has forced hospital closure and consolidation in some of our most vulnerable communities. There are hospitals in California that get paid over 2.5 times what hospitals in Johnson City and Kingsport receive for the exact same procedure. There is no justification for such a distortion. That’s why the Trump administration’s proposed reform to raise some of the lowest Medicare area wage indexes is critically important to East Tennessee. This change will also help our region recruit and retain quality physicians for our region. I am proud to work with Reps. Byrne, Sewell and others to strongly support this proposal, which has the potential to save rural health care.”

Congresswoman Sewell: “Alabama hospitals have received less than their fair share of Medicare reimbursement dollars for too long. I have been working with my colleagues for years to fix the Medicare Wage Index to help struggling Alabama hospitals keep their doors open, especially in rural parts of our state. It is critical that CMS finalizes its proposal, and I will continue to push until our rural hospitals see relief.”

Congressman Wenstrup: “Communities across Ohio’s Second District and across America rely on rural hospitals for their healthcare needs. These hospitals provide the same care as their urban counterparts, yet they are being compensated at lower rates due to the Medicare Area Wage Index. The continually decreasing reimbursements make it harder for rural hospitals to keep their doors open to continue caring for their communities. I strongly support efforts to reform the Wage Index to protect rural hospitals.”

Congressman Arrington: “I am proud to join my colleagues from both sides of the aisle to commend Secretary Azar and Administrator Verma for taking important steps to strengthen rural health care in our communities. By addressing Wage Index disparities between our rural and urban hospitals, the Administration is helping deliver higher quality health care and access for rural Americans in West Texas and across our nation.”

Congressman Smith: "I applaud the Trump Administration for working to correct the imbalance of health care payments that for far too long have unfairly rewarded wealthy cities and penalized rural areas like southern Missouri. I urge the Administration to quickly finalize their proposal to help improve rural access to quality health care.”

To see the bipartisan letter, click here.