Grassley and Conrad Push For Better Access To Quality Rural Health Care Print
News Releases - Health, Medicine & Nutrition
Written by Grassley Press   
Monday, 09 May 2011 13:09

Washington -- May 5, 2011 - Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Kent Conrad (D-ND) are working to make it easier to receive quality health care in rural areas throughout our nation.  Today, the Senators introduced bipartisan legislation to allow physician assistants to serve Medicare hospice patients.

In some rural areas, physician assistants may be the only health care professional available.  Physician assistants can provide care to Medicare patients until the point when hospice care is needed, and patients must then find an alternative provider.  This can disrupt the continuity of care at a time when the Medicare patient is most vulnerable.

Grassley and Conrad introduced the Medicare Hospice Care Access Act of 2011, which would allow physician assistants to provide hospice care to their patients who elect Medicare's hospice benefit.  For individuals and families who rely on physician assistants as their principal health care professional, this legislation promises continuity of quality medical care when the Medicare beneficiaries and their families are most in need.

“It makes sense to allow patients to continue to see the same health care provider through hospice care,” Grassley said.  “Patients benefit when they continue to see the health care professionals who know them.  This provision is especially important for rural areas, where physician assistants provide a lot of direct care, and where access to providers is always a challenge.”

"We cannot apply a one-size-fits-all approach to health care in this country.  Physician assistants are a crucial part of the health care system in North Dakota and other rural areas.  They provide quality health care to our seniors and should be allowed to continue when the patient transitions to hospice care. This legislation will make this transition easier and allow physician assistants to continue to provide these patients with quality care throughout the process,” Conrad said.

The physician assistants profession was created more than forty years ago in response to a shortage of primary care physicians. Today, more than 75,000 physician assistants provide high quality, cost-effective medical care.  It is estimated that in 2009 alone, nearly 300 million patient visits were made to physician assistants, according to the American Academy of Physician Assistants.  Medicare coverage was originally extended to physician assistants through the 1977 Rural Health Clinic Services Act, but the program has never been updated to allow physician assistants to deliver hospice care.

Grassley and Conrad are both on the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over health care legislation.

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