Health care providers feel encouraged by bill that would increase Medicare reimbursements

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DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG) -- A bipartisan bill that would increase Medicare reimbursements is receiving support from health care providers in Iowa.

Congresswoman Abby Finkenauer (IA-01) announced Monday the introduction of her bill, Keep Physicians Serving Patients Act of 2019. It would adjust the geographic practice cost index (GPCI), which sets payments for medical procedures. Finkenauer says GPCI's favor urban areas.

Julie Heiderscheit, CEO of Hillcrest Family Services in Dubuque, feels encouraged by this bill.

"I think a lot of the reimbursement rates have been long overdue to be evaluated for an increase," she said.

She says the low rates prevent health care providers like Hillcrest from offering competitive wages.

"It makes it very hard to recruit and retain obviously for those people that can garner more the commercial insurance rates and make more money in private practice," she said.

"You have a lot of higher-needs clients having a shortage of providers that they are able to see," Heiderscheit added.

Low Medicare rates also impact other insurance rates, according to Heiderscheit. She said, "they look at Medicare rates and see where the movement is with that to then set other rates."

She's hopeful this bill will improve things for Hillcrest and other health care providers.

"I think it will help reimbursement and hopefully increase access and retention of physicians overall," Heiderscheit said.

Many organizations have endorsed the bill, including the Iowa Medical Society, Iowa Podiatric Medical Society, MercyOne, and UnityPoint Health System.

Finkenauer worked with Congressman Ron Kind (WI-03) and with two Republicans, Congressman Adrian Smith (NE-03) and Congressman Darin LaHood (IL-18) to craft the bill.