Feenstra-Led Health Bills, One to Keep Rural Hospitals Open, Pass House Committee

Washington, DC — Iowa Congressman Randy Feenstra is sponsoring a bill to require Medicare to cover over-the-phone telehealth services for another year. That coverage was set to expire on December 31st of this year.

During the pandemic, Medicare began covering patient appointments conducted via video link and over the phone. Feenstra says many rural residents have no way to make a video connection. He cites a Federal Communications Commission report which found 45 million Americans cannot get broadband with high enough speeds capable of streaming video.

The US House Ways and Means Committee unanimously approved the bill on Wednesday. It allows federally qualified health centers and rural health clinics to bill Medicare for telehealth and delays the in-person visit requirement for mental health services for seniors.

The other bill, called the Rural Hospital Stabilization Act, would authorize the Rural Hospital Stabilization Pilot Program through 2029. It would allow struggling hospitals, especially those in rural areas, to improve financial stability and allow them to retain healthcare services, and increase service capacity. The legislation would prioritize rural hospitals, those with smaller patient capacity, and those most at risk of closure. The bill would also ensure these funds may be utilized for renovations, training, hiring, compensation, and equipment purchases.

(With help from fellow Community First Broadcasting station KAYL in Storm Lake)


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