Lawmakers Reintroduce Bill to Boost Access to Quality Health Care in Rural Areas

WASHINGTON, DC – Representatives Derek Kilmer (D-WA-06) and Lynn Jenkins (R-KS-02) reintroduced bipartisan legislation this week that would boost Medicare Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) for patients and health care providers in rural areas. The ACO Assignment Improvement Act of 2017 would create new options within the Medicare Shared Savings Program to increase patient access to quality care while reducing costs in underserved areas.

Under the bill, Medicare patients assigned to an ACO would be allowed to obtain treatment from nurse practitioners, physicians’ assistants, clinical nurse specialists, certified registered nurse anesthetists, certified nurse-midwives, clinical social workers, clinical psychologists, and registered dieticians or nutrition professionals. Through these changes, ACO assignments would be more effective in rural communities that have too few primary care physicians. It would also provide more participants to health care providers who participate in ACOs so they can be successful over the long-term.  

“Many Medicare patients on the Peninsula have a hard time just finding a doctor,” said Kilmer. “Our bipartisan bill gives them more options for finding quality care at local facilities that will keep them healthy without breaking the bank. At the same time, it rewards health care providers who are focused on improving the quality of care and putting their patients first.”

“It is imperative that we do everything we can to help our rural healthcare providers so that folks in rural areas have access to quality healthcare,” said Jenkins. “This important legislation will help folks in Eastern Kansas and rural communities across the country by offering more choices for patients, and it will help providers create a more patient-focused healthcare network that save patients time and money while getting credit for providing high-quality care.”   

ACOs are groups of hospitals, doctors, and other health care providers who voluntarily join together to coordinate care for a specific patient population. In ACOs, health care providers are responsible for effectively managing the health and wellness of patients: when an ACO delivers high-quality care at a lower cost than traditional fee-for-service spending, the ACO recoups part of the savings. Created by Congress in 2010, the Medicare Shared Savings Programs is voluntary and enables health care providers to share savings with Medicare if they beat cost targets and achieve specified quality measures.