Lawmakers say rural hospitals hurt

All eight Minnesota congressmen and two senators asked Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of Health and Human Services, to change rules that they claim hurt rural Minnesota hospitals.

The rule requires that doctors be present at a hospital and immediately available before a hospital can bill Medicare. That is impossible in some rural hospitals, lawmakers said, because doctors are in limited supply.

"These new requirements are not mandated in statute, nor did Congress intend for them to be gleaned from existing law," the lawmakers wrote. "Even more concerning, (the federal government) imposed these new mandates without any identified clinical need or discernment between the few medically complex services that naturally require more hands-on participation by a physician and the numerous routine, low-risk procedures that have been performed safely for decades by trained health care professionals working under a physician’s general supervision and direction if not always in his/her physical presence."

The 10 lawmakers reminded Sebelius that as health care costs are soaring, such a rule would add to cost for rural Minnesotans.

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