New Medicare bill may help rural areas |

New Medicare bill may help rural areas

Veronica Whitney
DENVER (AP) — Colorado hospitals could have passed on savings to consumers of as much as $11.5 billion over a nine-year period if they had better contained costs and lowered their margins, according to a new state report.
AP Photo

President Bush is expected to sign the bill that some argue will help rural communities throughout Colorado by increasing the quality and dependability of local health care services.

The plan, included as part of Medicare Modernization and Prescription Drug legislation, passed by Congress last week, could help rural residents thanks to a multi-billion dollar package in part designed and inserted into the bill by Colorado Congressman Scott McInnis, R-Grand Junction.

“The package represents one of the most significant improvements in rural health care ever considered by Congress,” said Blair Jones, spokesman for McInnis.

The McInnis provisions will work to guarantee access to affordable and high-quality health care services in rural communities by increasing Medicare reimbursement levels for rural hospitals and home health care agencies.

“We’re still analyzing what will be the impacts on the hospital,” said Sarah Moody, senior vice president of operations for Vail Valley Medical Center. “We haven’t gone through the whole 1,200-page bill yet. We can’t quantify it yet, but there will be impacts because we are a rural hospital.”

About 11 percent of the hospital’s patients are on Medicare, Moody said.

The rural health care package will help the Vail hospital – a sole community hospital – by guaranteeing the highest available reimbursement under Medicare. The bill also increases by 5 percent Medicare reimbursements for home health services provided in rural areas.

“Currently, Medicare reimbursements are very low,” Moody said. “The increase will help us greatly because we have our own home health agency.

“We frequently lose money on a Medicare patient,” she added. “We think we have tremendous quality of care and we have to accept the reimbursements we get.”

One of the major benefits she sees for seniors is that the new bill will provide partial prescription coverage.

“But I know for sure that the prescription portion doesn’t go into effect until 2006,” she added.

The measure will also expand choices in Medicare cover

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