Holyoke (Colo.) Enterprise

Gardner Succeeds in Effort to Help Recruit and Retain Rural Docs

U.S. Sens. Cory Gardner (R-CO), Jon Tester (D-MT) and Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS) recently applauded the newly finalized Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services rule to provide reimbursement for time that residents spend training at Critical Access Hospitals. Critical Access Hospitals serve rural communities and are facing a critical physician shortage.

Gardner, Tester and Hyde-Smith are authors of the Rural Physician Workforce Production Act, which included this policy and other proposals to strengthen the rural physician pipeline. The policy finalized by CMS makes significant improvements to the way rural residency training is reimbursed and will incentivize physicians to train and stay in rural areas.

“In Colorado and across the nation, rural areas are feeling the pain of driving significant distances as a result of the growing physician shortage in these underserved communities,” said Gardner. “The greatest indicator of where doctors will practice is the location of their residency, and today’s final rule announcement is one step towards ensuring doctors are being recruited and retained in rural areas. I applaud CMS’s announcement and will continue to advocate for passage of the Rural Physician Workforce Production Act, commonsense legislation to remove barriers and level the playing field for residency training.”

“The Administration did the right thing by ensuring these reimbursements to help train more physicians in rural Montana,” said Senator Tester. “This is an important step that'll ensure health care is more accessible in rural America.”

“This rule should help Mississippi and other states reduce the shortfall of physicians serving the people who rely on rural hospitals,” said Senator Hyde-Smith.  “Rural health care is under a lot of strain, but this CMS rule represents true progress.  We’ll continue our work to find sensible reforms that will have long-term benefits for rural communities.”

Since 2013, Medicare graduate medical education (GME) payments have not been allowed to support the time that a resident spends training in a rural area at a CAH. One of the main indicators of where a physician will practice is their training location, and this prohibition has stood in the way of improving rural access to health care. On June 24, 2019, a bipartisan group of nine senators, including Senators Gardner, Tester, and Hyde-Smith sent a letter urging CMS to adopt their proposal to remove this harmful barrier to rural physician training.