The AHA today responded to a House Ways and Means Committee request for comments on priority topics as its Rural and Underserved Communities Health Task Force works to identify bipartisan policy options to improve care delivery and health outcomes in these communities. AHA urged the task force to promote policies that close the coverage gap and to remain focused on comprehensive coverage, including for behavioral health. It also recommended that Medicare cover telehealth for all services that are safe to provide and ensure adequate reimbursement for originating sites; maintain payment programs that support rural hospitals, including re-opening the necessary provider critical access hospital designation; continue to test new payment models that support payment certainty; and allow rural hospitals to provide emergency and observation services without inpatient services. In addition, AHA urged Congress to make funds available for hospitals to improve aging infrastructure and transform service lines; lift the cap on Medicare-funded residency slots and expand workforce programs to address health professional shortages; and consider the unique context of rural and underserved communities when it designs and implements quality improvement and reporting programs.

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