Nebraska Hospital Association advocates for legislation to improve rural health care

The Nebraska Hospital Association and Nebraska Rural Health Association released the Roadmap to Strong Rural Health Care on Monday.
Published: Jan. 30, 2023 at 1:04 PM CST
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) -The Nebraska Hospital Association and Nebraska Rural Health Association released the 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 north star when it comes to rural health care in Nebraska,” commented Jeremy Nordquist, President of NHA. “We’ve listened to our health care leaders and we intend to advocate on their behalf to find answers to these critical issues. Inaction is simply not an option if we want 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 reported labor costs up over 20%, supplies up 15-20%, food and utilities up 10%, and the cost of drugs up more than 35%. Officials support legislation that would increase Medicaid provider reimbursement rates for all hospitals. Without these increases, hospitals will have to make difficult financial decisions affecting services and impacting access to care.
  • Growing our Rural Health Care 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 less than the national average ratio of registered nurses to patients. Sixty-six of Nebraska’s counties have been deemed medically underserved. Nine counties in Nebraska have no registered nurses.
  • Medicare Advantage Reform: Medicare Advantage is a fast-growing alternative to original Medicare and is operated primarily by major insurance companies. These health plans have enrolled nearly 27 million members, or about 45% of people eligible for Medicare. When patients enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan, they often give up the freedoms that come along with traditional Medicare in exchange for additional benefits. The NHA supports legislation strengthening oversight of Medicare Advantage ensuring our rural, Critical Access hospitals are fairly reimbursed; NHA also strived to streamline prior authorization requirements under Medicare Advantage plans.