Fort Scott CEO Appointed to National Panel

August 23, 2011

Fort Scott's Reta Baker to serve three-year term on Rural Hospital Issues Group.

Reta Baker

MercyHealth Center President/CEO Reta Baker has been appointed a member of the Rural Hospital Issues Group.

The group was formed at least six years ago by the Rural Policy Analysis Research Institute (RUPRI) in cooperation with the American Hospital Association (AHA) and the National Rural Health Association (NRHA) to create a forum to discuss key issues facing rural hospitals.

Baker, who will serve a three-year term, said it is a chance to hear from legislators and offer feedback on how decisions being made will impact health care in the rural environment.

"I was surprised and honored to be asked to participate in the group," said Baker, who is also involved in the Kansas Hospital Association. "I see it as a great privilege and opportunity to sit on the committee and represent rural Southeast Kansas."

In order to help better understand the issues facing rural providers, the Rural Hospital Issues Group convenes to discuss current concerns with payment systems, identify emerging issues and share opportunities for improvement to rural hospital reimbursement, a news release said.

This activity is supported as part of a larger cooperative agreement between the RUPRI and the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy that examines the impact of national policies on rural communities, the release said.

Including the chairperson, there are 15 group members.

"It’s a combination of state hospital association CEOs, administrators and two people from accounting firms that service predominantly rural hospitals. It's a way of having discussions about critical policy issues facing rural hospitals and those discussions benefit the associations that represent their interests," said Keith J. Mueller, Gerhard Hartman Professor and Head of the Department of Health Management and Policy at the University of Iowa, Iowa City.

Mueller is also director for the Center of Health Policy Analysis at the Rural Policy Research Institute.

The Rural Hospital Issues Group meets twice a year, once in late spring in Chicago for a discussion of the proposed rule for prospective payment and other topics, and in early December in Washington, D.C., to discuss current topics.

Baker said two of the key topics will be reimbursement and regulations. "We'll be looking at regulations around how health care providers provide care. ... We'll be talking about rule making. We even look at the issues such as drug shortages that occur and how that affects rural settings and whether rural settings are affected differently than urban settings; changes in Medicaid; the rising cost of health care, as well as rising need for health care," she said.

Medicaid funding is declining from the federal to state level and there will be "lots of Medicaid" issues to discuss, "but there will also be lots of Medicare issues to discuss. The economy is making a huge impact and all of us who are baby boomers are going to be wanting more health care," Baker said.

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