NASHVILLE, (June 14, 2019) – Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Ken Yager (R-Kingston) has called for adoption of a proposed rule pending before the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to help Tennessee’s rural hospitals receive fairer reimbursement rate for healthcare services by changing the Area Wage Index (AWI) formula.  In a letter to Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma, Yager pointed out that all 95 counties in Tennessee currently fall among the very lowest reimbursement rates in the U.S. and that the proposed rule change offers a lifeline for hospitals throughout the Volunteer State.

The letter was submitted as an official response to a public comment period on the proposal which is set to end on June 24.  Sen. Yager also co-sponsored Senate Joint Resolution 98 <> which was passed by the General Assembly earlier this year urging revision of the wage index formula.

“The wage index has created a challenging environment that has negatively impacted the health care system in Tennessee,” wrote in his comment to CMS.  “The fundamentally flawed wage index has played a key role in hospital closures in Tennessee.  Without the relief CMS has proposed, Tennessee hospitals will continue to suffer and more may be forced to close their doors to the many Tennesseans who need care.”

“Unfortunately, federal rules and regulations put into place over the last couple of decades have put Tennessee’s rural hospitals at a disadvantage,” said Yager.  “They are being discriminated against through the way Medicare is reimbursed. I strongly support this rule change, which would be a tremendous shot in the arm to boost the viability of our hospitals, and was pleased to write a letter of support for reform.  It would be a huge step forward in starting to level the playing field and ensuring the long-term viability of our health care network in Tennessee.”
Yager also praised the work that Senator Alexander, Senator Blackburn, Congressman Fleischmann and Congressman Rose have done in bringing the need for this critical change to the Trump administration’s attention. “They have worked very diligently to get this proposed rule change before CMS and we are very grateful for the tremendous effort they have made to help our hospitals.”
Upon adoption, the new rule could take effect as soon as this fall.