Rural Health Policy Update – June 2022

NOSORH Sends Letter to Senate Appropriations Committee:  On May 17, NOSORH, along with the National Rural Health Association and the National Association of Rural Health Clinics, wrote to Senate Appropriations Subcommittee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-WA) and Ranking Member Roy Blunt (R-MZ) regarding funding for Rural Health Clinics. NOSORH asked the committee to fund the Rural Health Clinic Behavioral Health Initiative at $10 million for Fiscal Year (FY) 2023.  Fully funding the RHC Behavioral Health Initiatives will help bring behavioral health professionals to more rural areas and address persistent behavioral health concerns throughout the U.S.  

In the wake of the horrific shooting tragedy in Uvalde, Texas, Congress will be examining a bevy of behavioral health-related proposals throughout the summer. The Senate Finance Committee released a bipartisan draft bill addressing tele-mental health services in late May. The bill would remove Medicare’s in-person visit requirement for mental health services, preserve audio-only mental health coverage, and direct Medicare and Medicaid to promote and support provider use of telehealth. The Senate Finance and HELP Committees are trying to pass comprehensive mental health reform legislation this summer. 

NOSORH Plans June Hill Meetings: As the weather heats up in June, NOSORH will be meeting in person with lawmakers and their staff on Capitol Hill. NOSORH will be asking Congress to increase programmatic funding for the SORH program to $15 million for FY 2023.  NOSORH will also be asking members to support H.R. 6400, the Save America’s Rural Hospitals Act, which includes a section reauthorizing the Flex Program and increasing funding. Specifically, NOSORH is looking to introduce a standalone Flex reauthorization bill this Congress. The meetings will follow up on a bipartisan letter from nine Senators asking the Senate Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee for continued support for rural health programs, including the SORH and Flex programs. 

The appropriations process will play out in Congress for the remainder of the calendar year 2022. NOSORH requests that you contact your congressional delegation to support an increase in appropriation for SORH. Sample letters are available on the NOSORH website.  The deadline for Congress to pass FY 23 funding is September 30, 2022.  However, given it’s a midterm election year, it’s almost certain Congress will not pass a spending bill until late November or early December.