Legal 'Oversight' May Leave Rural Health Clinics Behind

Alexandra Wilson Pecci, for HealthLeaders Media , July 6, 2011

In addition, the coalition has already developed a draft of the language that they want to attach to a bill.

"We're hoping to attach it as a part of the SGR [sustainable growth rate] bill when and however that moves," Sharp says, adding that they've heard that it may move with the debt ceiling negotiations.

Sharp says that his coalition believes that the omission was an oversight, not intentional. But it still leaves rural health clinics at a major disadvantage.

"No one wants to discriminate against rural health clinics," he says. "They have their work cut out for them as it is in the challenges that they face, and it's vital that they're able to participate in these programs."

He says healthcare's transformation is going to be built on information technology and the ability to report, track, and improve quality metrics is based upon having electronic records.

"It's a very simple technical correction to allow rural health clinics to participate in these programs," he says.

Still, even the simplest things aren't always guaranteed, and Sharp says he's "cautiously optimistic" about getting the language changed. In the meantime, he urges rural stakeholders to lobby their own representatives in Washington about the oversight, raise awareness about the issue among their peers, and join the coalition to be sure that rural healthcare doesn't get left behind.

"We're really advocating for all of those quality programs that, regardless of what form you bill on, that those physicians the providers involved would be able to play on an equal playing field with their urban counterparts," he says. "But I don't think it will happen without this change."

E-mail Sharp at to learn more about the coalition and its efforts.

Alexandra Wilson Pecci is a managing editor for HealthLeaders Media.

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