Lincoln, Neb. (KOLN) – The Nebraska Hospital Association and the Nebraska Rural Health Association released a roadmap for stronger rural health care on Monday. This document outlines several challenges facing rural health care along with proposed legislative strategies and solutions.
Among the issues covered are payment rates, telehealth equity, workforce challenges, and acute hospital care.
“This roadmap is our North Star leader for rural health care in Nebraska,” commented NHA President Jeremy Nordquist. “We have listened to our health care leaders and intend to advocate on their behalf to find answers to these critical issues. Failure to do so is not an option if we want to maintain access to health services in our rural communities.
The roadmap focuses on the following three areas:
- Financial pressures on rural hospitals: In the past two years alone, our hospitals have reported that labor costs have increased by more than 20%, supplies by 15-20%, food and consumables by 10%, and drug prices by more than 35%. Officials also support legislation that would increase the amount Medicaid providers pay to all hospitals. Without these increases, hospitals must make difficult financial decisions that affect services and access to care.
- Enhancing our rural healthcare workforce: According to the Nebraska Nursing Center, Nebraska faces a workforce shortage of 5,435 nurses by 2025. 73 of Nebraska’s 93 counties have a ratio of registered nurses to patients lower than the national average. Sixty-six of Nebraska’s counties are considered medically underserved. Nine counties in Nebraska have no registered nurses.
- Medicare Benefit Update: Medicare Advantage is a fast-growing alternative to Medicare that is managed primarily by major insurance companies. These health plans enroll about 27 million members, or about 45% of Medicare-eligible people. When patients enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan, they give up the freedoms that come with traditional Medicare in exchange for additional benefits. NHA supports legislation that would strengthen Medicare Advantage oversight to ensure that rural, critical access hospitals are properly reimbursed. NHA also sought to streamline prior authorization requirements under Medicare Advantage plans.
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