LIVE: Nebraska Hospital Association backs legislation to improve rural health care

LINCOLN, Neb. (Nebraska) – The Nebraska Hospital Association and the Nebraska Rural Health Association released their Roadmap to Strong Rural Health Care on Monday. This document outlines the many challenges faced by rural healthcare along with proposed legislative strategies and solutions.

Among the issues covered are reimbursement rates, telehealth parity, workforce challenges, and post-acute hospital care.

“This roadmap is our guiding lodestar when it comes to rural health care in Nebraska,” said Jeremy Nordquist, president of NHA. “We have listened to our healthcare leaders and intend to advocate on their behalf to find answers to these critical issues. Inaction is simply not an option if we are to protect access to health care in our rural communities.”

The roadmap focuses on the following three areas:

  • Financial pressures on rural hospitals: In the last two years alone, our hospitals have seen labor costs increase by more than 20%, supplies by 15-20%, food and utilities by 10%, and the cost of medicines by more than 35%. Officials support legislation that would raise Medicaid provider reimbursement rates for all hospitals. Without these increases, hospitals will have to make tough financial decisions that impact services and access to care.
  • Growth of our rural health workforce: According to the Nebraska Center for Nursing, Nebraska will experience a workforce shortage of 5,435 nurses by 2025. Seventy-three of Nebraska’s 93 counties have a lower than the national average ratio of registered nurses to patients. Sixty-six Nebraska counties were considered medically underserved. Nine Nebraska counties do not have registered nurses.
  • Medicare benefit reform: Medicare Advantage is a rapidly growing alternative to original Medicare and is primarily operated by major insurance companies. These health plans have enrolled nearly 27 million members, or about 45 percent of Medicare-eligible people. When patients enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan, they often give up the freedoms that come with traditional Medicare in exchange for additional benefits. NHA supports legislation that strengthens Medicare Advantage oversight by ensuring our critical-access rural hospitals are fairly reimbursed; NHA has also sought to simplify prior authorization requirements under Medicare Advantage plans.

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