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Jaime Herrera Beutler Authors Measure to Preserve Access to Doctors in Rural Communities Approved by Committee

U.S. House Appropriations Committee advances bill with Jaime-authored provisions that would reduce massive financial uncertainty for Southwest Washington Rural Health Clinics

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Washington, D.C., July 14, 2016 | comments
Today, Congresswoman Jaime Herrera’s measure to preserve access to doctors in rural communities was passed by the U.S. House Appropriations committee.
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Today, Congresswoman Jaime Herrera’s measure to preserve access to doctors in rural communities was passed by the U.S. House Appropriations committee. In 2009, Washington state implemented a faulty Medicaid reimbursement system that has resulted in many rural health clinics owing hundreds of thousands of dollars in back payments.  Jaime’s provision directs the Federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services to work together with Washington state to solve this problem and find a way to ease the burden on rural health clinics.

Washington state is demanding that Rural Health Clinics make back payments for services offered years ago. Now, some of the 118 rural health clinics, including 18 in Southwest Washington, are at risk of closing their doors.

Rural Health Clinics provide high-quality, low-cost care to underserved rural communities. Some of the clinics most affected by this faulty payment structure in Southwest Washington are those that serve children covered by Medicaid.  

“Rural Health Clinics are the primary source of health care for many people who live in rural communities like Ilwacco or Goldendale. Unfortunately, the financial burden imposed by this flawed system is threatening to shutter these clinics and reduce access for seniors, children and families in our rural towns. In fact, there are already clinics around the state that have had to shut their doors,” said Jaime. “I’m pleased the U.S. House is moving my legislative directive to force the Center for Medicaid Services work together with Washington state to preserve access to doctors and care for thousands of residents in our region.” 

“The State-mandated process of reconciliation is threatening the existence of the Rural Primary Care Clinics in Lewis County,” said Jennifer Polley, MD of Northwest Pediatric Center in Chehalis and Centralia. “The process is not only arduous and complicated -- it also has a five-year backlog that makes it impossible for clinics to plan for the future.  We would like to thank Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler for her continued support of rural primary care medical facilities.  Her support is helping primary care offices stay open to serve our community.” 

“Unpredictable administration of the state insurance program has been the biggest challenge our group has faced for the last seven years now,” said Dr. Greg Zuck of NorthShore Medical Group in White Salmon and Stevenson. “We very much appreciate Congresswoman Herrera Beutler’s work on this issue, which will enable us to keep caring for our community.”  

“Ocean Beach Hospital and Medical Clinics operates two Rural Health Clinics, one in Ilwaco, WA and one in Naselle, WA,” said Larry Cohen, MS, Interim CEO/COO. “Without the Rural Health Clinic program, it wouldn’t be possible for our seven clinicians to provide nearly 15,000 primary care and specialty clinic visits per year.  Ocean Beach Hospital is planning to improve care access on the Long Beach Peninsula by opening a third location to be located in in Ocean Park, WA.  Here again, it is being a Rural Health Clinic that will make this possible – and hopefully bring three more providers to South Pacific County. We very much appreciate Congresswoman Herrera Beutler’s support for medical services in our area.”

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