KHI News Service

Moran introduces bill to counter new federal regulations

Senators says rules would hinder rural health care delivery

By KHI NEWS SERVICE | April 27, 2011


S. 778

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U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., has introduced a bill in Congress aimed at countering a pending federal regulation that he says would hinder health care delivery in rural areas.

New federal regulations scheduled to become effective next year would require direct doctor supervision of outpatient health care services that currently are provided by nurses and other mid-level care providers.

Currently, the services are provided with doctor supervision, but the physician need not be physically present when the care is given.

Moran said the new rule would hinder delivery of a range of "low-risk" services including drug and blood infusions, and cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation services.

He said the regulation change does not take into account the realities of rural health care.

“Many Kansas hospitals, and other rural hospitals across the country, will find these supervision requirements impossible to meet, jeopardizing continued access to these important health care services,” Moran said in a prepared statement. “Small and rural hospitals, where medical workforce shortages are most severe, need reasonable flexibility to appropriately staff their facilities so they can continue to provide a full range of services to their communities.”

The Protecting Access to Rural Therapy Services Act (S. 778). would:

• Allow general supervision by a physician or non-physician providers for many outpatient therapy services,

• Require Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to allow a default setting of general supervision — rather than direct supervision — for outpatient therapy services,

• Create an advisory panel to establish policies for risky and complex outpatient services, and

• Hold hospitals and Critical Access Hospitals harmless from civil or criminal action regarding CMS’ current direct supervision policy for the period 2001 through 2011.

The bill has been referred to the Senate Finance Committee. The American Hospital Association and National Rural Health Association have endorsed the bill.

The regulations were scheduled to become effective earlier but were delayed after the concerns were raised about them.