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Rep. Roger Williams: Rural health providers need relief

Jul 21, 2020

The Washington Examiner
Congressman Roger Williams
Opinion: Rural health providers need relief

Rural hospitals are a crucial component in the U.S. healthcare system. They play a vital role all across the nation in regions that are underserved by larger hospitals. In Texas, they are often the only option for those who live miles away from the nearest healthcare facility, a distance that can mean the difference between life and death.

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented challenges previously unseen in U.S. history. All healthcare providers were forced to operate in a new environment, but few rose to the occasion to meet patients’ needs amid historic financial losses the way rural hospitals and clinics did. I’m proud to have delivered hundreds of millions of dollars for Texas healthcare centers since the beginning of the pandemic, and I will continue partnering with federal and local officials to provide personal protective equipment, pharmaceuticals, and critical resources to our heroes on the front lines of this fight.

Rural hospitals and clinics are essential in our communities, and it’s more important now than ever that we take deliberate action to alleviate unnecessary regulatory burdens threatening their longevity. The Medicaid Fiscal Accountability Rule is a perfect example of such a burdensome regulation. If implemented, it will severely harm rural communities and risk devastating outcomes, particularly in states such as Texas. The financial impact alone would cost our state nearly $11 billion annually and cause local governments to increase taxes to make ends meet. This will result in less care, more red tape, and increased taxes.

That’s why I am leading the fight on behalf of all Texans, and I am proud to introduce legislation with my Democratic colleague Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson. The bipartisan MFAR Transparency Act will delay this harmful rule so our health systems can continue serving patients during the most dynamic health crisis of our generation. Our focus must be on providing people with the highest quality level of care possible. Careful analysis of the consequences the MFAR would present must be known before implementation can be considered.

I stand with all of the providers who know their patients best and have had the distinct privilege of working with health systems across the great state of Texas. One of them, Baylor Scott and White Health, has stated that “as the healthcare industry and other industries across the nation are suffering historic financial loss, it is not the time to remove approved funding structures that draw down Medicaid dollars.” Goodall-Witcher Hospital in Clifton has said that “having a better handle on the impact of curtailing hospital supplemental payments as proposed by CMS is absolutely critical. In a state like Texas that has not expanded Medicaid and with high levels of uninsured, these payments keep hospital doors, especially rural hospitals, open.”

It is paramount that we support the mission of our healthcare providers as they give critical aid during COVID-19. The imposition of new, onerous government regulations such as MFAR is not the answer. I will continue fighting alongside our providers so that they can better serve Texans and protect our communities.

Roger Williams represents Texas’ 25th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, where he also serves as a member of the House Committee on Financial Services.