NYSARH in its 16th Year!
The New York State Association for Rural Health celebrates its 16th year. The New York State Association for Rural Health (NYSARH) is a not-for-profit, non-partisan, grassroots organization working to preserve and improve the health of the citizens in rural New York State. NYSARH membership includes representatives of all facets of the rural health care industry, as well as individuals and students. On many different levels, NYSARH serves individuals, consumers, non-profit organizations, government agencies and officials, health care facilities, emergency medical service providers, long-term care organizations, businesses, universities, foundations, associations, and other stakeholders in rural health. NYSARH is celebrating its 16th year in 2017.
New York State Activities
On the state level, NYSARH conducts an annual educational event for New York State legislators and their staff. Providers of rural health care services travel to Albany to setup displays, distribute literature, and answer questions about the services they provide and the needs of the communities they serve. NYSARH enjoys a very positive relationship with the Charles D. Cook Office of Rural Health within the State Department of Health as well as with the New York State Legislative Commission on Rural Resources. NYSARH partners with other organizations advocating on behalf of rural health care providers.
In addition to representing its membership at both the national and state levels of government, NYSARH conducts an annual conference for its members. These conferences, open to NYSARH members and anyone interested in assisting meeting the health care needs of rural communities, provide information, educational support, guidance and networking opportunities. Expert presenters share their experiences and successes with conference participants who learn how to better serve their communities. These conferences always offer engaging and informative presentations by an elite faculty and are well-attended. At the Annual Conference we bestow Annual Awards highlighting the best in providers and health services in rural New York, recognizing outstanding individuals, programs, and services. During the course of the year, NYSARH also sponsors various workshops aimed at identifying and sharing best practices with participants who can then return to their communities and continually increase the quality and value of the services they offer. NYSARH continuously seeks to hear from its members regarding their most pressing community issues, what strategies members propose to address these issues, and what resources are needed to carry them out.
The NYSARH Board of Directors serves on a voluntary basis and is made up of a group of individuals committed to improving the health status of rural New Yorkers. These individuals enjoy the support of their employers in their service to NYSARH. A voluntary committee structure supports achieving the goals of the organization.
NYSARH has strong linkage to the National Rural Health Association (NRHA) and enjoys substantial support and assistance from NRHA. Working hand in hand with NRHA, NYSARH participates in an annual Policy Institute in Washington, D.C. During the Policy Institute, where representatives of rural providers across the nation gather, participants visit with their state congressional leaders to seek support on issues of national policy affecting rural health care providers. NRHA and NYSARH”s priorities are very much in line with each other. The needs of New York’s rural health providers very much mirror the needs of providers in other states.
With the many challenges facing providers of rural health services today, NYSARH has developed a list of priority areas that need to be addressed and for which the support of the New York State Congressional Delegation is needed. The top priorities for which NYSARH sought support in Washington for this year are as follows:
The Rural Health Safety Net Must Be Protected – Congress should strengthen the rural health safety net by providing critical funding in fiscal year (FY) 2015. The recent passage of the “Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2014” included important investments for rural health. Programs like the Rural Hospital Flexibility Program, funding for State Offices of Rural Health, and telehealth are vital to the efficient and effective delivery of health care in rural America. NYSARH encourages Congress to continue funding these important programs in FY 2015. In many rural communities, the local hospital, nursing home or other health care provider is the largest employer and economic anchor. Rural areas are among the most negatively impacted by the ongoing recession. Further loss of health services in rural areas will doom prospects of economic recovery.
Protect Rural Patients and Providers from Devastating Sequestration – The Budget Control Act of 2011 mandates a Medicare spending sequester that continues to disproportionately harm rural safety net providers. Across-the-board cuts severely hurt rural providers (whose budgets are a fraction of the size of suburban and urban facilities). The long-term continuation of sequestration cuts harm rural patient’ access to care; rural safety net providers should be shielded from devastating cuts. The obstacles faced by health care providers and patients in rural areas are vastly different than those in urban areas. Population make-up and payer mix make rural facilities more susceptible to shifts in Medicare reimbursement. Congress has recognized these barriers and has authorized Medicare reimbursement calculations that are more appropriate for these facilities’ low patient volumes and higher operating costs. The long-term enforcement of sequestration cuts for rural providers will cause calamitous gaps in access to care and should be modified to protect the rural health care safety net.
Protect Rural Patients and Providers – Congress should permanently extend all temporary rural health programs and maintain current requirements for rural hospital statuses as part of any effort to permanently replace the problematic Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR). While NYSARH is supportive of replaces this problematic payment formula, this replacement should not be paid for by cutting rural payments or letting other rural programs expire. Congress has enacted a number of programs that help rural health care providers face the inherent challenges to the rural delivery system. Many of these provisions are set to expire at various points during 2014 while others have been targeted as sources of “savings” for other spending. Modifications to the conditions of participation in these vital programs will harm rural providers and the patients that serve while failing to produce real savings. Changes to rural payments have already let some providers to reduce staff and services; additionally, several rural hospitals were forced to close in 2013. If these programs expire or are significantly modified, rural patients will be forced into higher cost urban centers for their care, causing costs to rise, not be reduced.
In addition to requesting support from New York congressional leaders, NYSARH acts as a source of information to provide data to assist with critical decision making.