Delegation works to improve Medicare reimbursements
Whether you live in a big city with 10 million residents or a small town with only 10, every American deserves quality health care. We are fortunate that our health- care professionals in North Dakota provide some of the best care in the country,...
Whether you live in a big city with 10 million residents or a small town with only 10, every American deserves quality health care. We are fortunate that our health- care professionals in North Dakota provide some of the best care in the country, even though their Medicare payments are among the lowest.
That's why Sen. Dorgan, D-N.D., Congressman Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D., and I have been fighting to improve Medicare reimbursement and ensure that North Dakotans continue to receive the best possible health care. North Dakota achieved a big victory in that fight this week when Congress overcame a White House veto and passed a Medicare bill that will improve access to health care for seniors, soldiers and veterans.
While we don't yet know the precise final figures, this bill will inject tens of millions of dollars into North Dakota's health-care system, helping to ensure top-quality care throughout our state. But much more needs to be done.
The bipartisan bill strengthens health care and stops scheduled cuts to Medicare that would have hindered health-care providers everywhere - especially providers in rural America.
Additionally, I am proud to say this bill includes a number of important provisions that we offered to help sustain North Dakota's health-care system.
The Medicare bill extends the Section 508 program, which helps several hospitals in the state retain nurses and doctors and buy new technology. Further, it contains a grant program to help Critical Access Hospitals, like Richardton, transition to a nursing home or assisted living facility - freeing up the Critical Access Hospital designation status for St. Joseph's in Dickinson.
With the passage of this bill, North Dakota patients will be more certain of seeing a doctor when in need. The bill reverses a more than 10 percent payment cut for doctors who treat Medicare patients while allowing physicians to continue treating seniors, as well as military families.
The bill also boosts payments for doctors in more rural states like North Dakota, a measure I included in the Rural Hospital and Provider Equity Act, or R-HoPE, bill I introduced last year.
We also fought for the inclusion of provisions to boost payments for ambulance services and pharmacies, which are critically important to the health-care safety net of North Dakota, as well as encouraging the usage of telemedicine in nursing homes and dialysis units, which cuts down on unnecessary travel costs for vulnerable seniors.
One of our top priorities in the Senate has always been to help make sure that all North Dakotans have access to quality, affordable health care, and this bill - which is now law - will help to do just that.
Conrad, D-N.D., has served in the U.S. Senate since 1986. He is chairman
of the Budget Committee.