Dear Editor,

Every single American deserves high quality healthcare no matter where they live. However, one in five Americans who live in rural areas experience challenges in receiving the healthcare they need as provider-to-patient ratios rise dramatically and more hospitals close. Rural communities are losing their healthcare workforce as data lags contribute to Medicare hospital payments that don’t keep up with increases in wages paid.

The Trump Administration has placed an unprecedented priority on improving healthcare for Americans living in rural areas. Last year, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced a Rural Health Strategy that focuses on applying a rural lens to our vision and work so we can strengthen the rural healthcare system without the need for imposing burdensome government regulations.

Recently, the Trump Administration put this strategy into action, announcing a new rule to improve how Medicare pays hospitals. These changes will increase payment to certain hospitals located in low wage areas, including many rural hospitals so they can improve the wages they pay their hospital employees, maintain their healthcare labor force and ensure patients have access to high-quality, affordable healthcare.

We received nearly 8,000 comments on our proposals, and there was widespread recognition and agreement that Medicare payments should be modernized to support low wage areas. The policies in this new rule will, on average, help rural hospitals in Mississippi see a 3.6 percent increase in Medicare payments.

While we’ve taken many steps to improve healthcare and access for patients in rural areas, our work isn’t done. CMS will continue to apply a rural lens to all of its future policies maintaining its commitment to Americans everywhere.

Seema Verma, Administrator

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

Chicago, Ill.

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