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Tipton and Peterson reintroduce the Rural Hospital Frontier Fairness Act

February 25, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON D.C. – Last week, Representatives Scott Tipton (R-CO) and Collin Peterson (D-MN) reintroduced the bipartisan Rural Hospital Frontier Fairness Act to provide Sole Community Hospitals with increased funding to hire staff. The legislation also expands the 340b Drug Pricing Program to help these facilities afford increasingly expensive medications for patients. 
Under current law, Sole Community Hospitals in “Frontier States” benefit from the “Floor on Area Wage Index for Hospitals in Frontier States” to offer higher wages to employees. While this provision has been effective in strengthening the rural health workforce in Frontier States, it has placed nearby facilities in non-Frontier States at a significant disadvantage when competing for employees in the same geographic area.
The Rural Hospital Frontier Fairness Act addresses this problem by applying the Floor on Area Wage Index for Hospitals to any Sole Community Hospital located within 75 miles of a Frontier State’s border. The legislation also qualifies the same facilities for automatic participation in the 340b Drug program. 
“One of the greatest challenges families in rural Colorado face is a lack of access to health care providers,” said Congressman Tipton. “The Rural Hospital Frontier Fairness Act will help rural hospitals attract and retain healthcare providers, improving access to quality health care as well as improving access to affordable medications.”

“This legislation will help several Minnesota hospitals attract and retain needed staff,” said Congressman Peterson. “Moreover, they can use their savings from the 340b program to expand their facilities, offer new services, or in many cases, simply keep their doors open.”

“Meeting the healthcare needs of our community has become increasingly difficult when Medicare pays other nearby hospitals substantially more for the same services,” said Kyle Richards (CEO of Lake Region Healthcare in Fergus Falls, MN). “This legislation treats us all fairly.”  

“Alomere Health is very grateful for the support of Representatives Peterson and Tipton in introducing this bill,” said Carl Vaagenes (CEO of Alomere Health in Alexandria, MN). “As a rural hospital, we are one of the few rural hospitals in Minnesota that does not qualify for the 340b program. In the past 2 years, we have seen double digit increases in our drug expense of 17% and 12% respectively. One of the essential services we provide for patients in our region is cancer care, which accounts for 62% of our overall drug expense. By having access to the 340b program, it will help us reduce the cost to provide essential care to this vulnerable population. The savings we receive through the 340b program will allow Alomere Health to continue to maintain and expand access to health care services to our family, friends, and neighbors throughout the region.”

Representatives Tipton and Peterson introduced identical legislation (H.R. 5498) in the 115th Congress. 

*This is a joint press release from both representatives.