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South Dakota Gets Bigger Voice in Medicare Decisions

June 11, 2007


Wessington Springs, SD - South Dakota has a lot at stake in the federal Medicare program, but rural health advocates say we're sometimes overlooked. That's why the National Rural Health Association is giving the thumbs up to the appointment of a South Dakotan to the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission. Dr. Tom Dean with Horizon Health Care in Wessington Springs says his appointment will help make sure the program meets the needs of states like South Dakota, where there's a larger proportion of older citizens dependent on Medicare.

“I think we're more concerned that the programs are really sensitive to the unique needs, the availability of access to care in rural areas and making sure that the programs that are put together appropriately deal with the concerns of rural folks.”

Dean notes that the fiscal health of the Medicare program is a huge issue facing community health centers, and rural health care in general.

“It's financially somewhat threatened because the expenditures are outpacing the income right now. And so, the first issue is to be sure that we structure Medicare in a way that it's sustainable over the long-term so it's going to be available.”

Dean believes it's important that Medicare treats rural hospitals and doctors fairly.

“We want to be sure that both rural hospitals and rural physicians are appropriately reimbursed so that we can make sure that these facilities continue to survive, because Medicare is a much bigger part of the income of rural providers than it is of urban providers, because we deal with a larger proportion of elderly.”

Dean's term begins in July. The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission plays a major role advising Congress on payments to health plans that participate in the Medicare program.

David Law/Eric Mack, Public News Service - SD