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Local

Grassley likes amendment 
helping rural 
medical centers

Sen. Chuck Grassley likes at least one part of the Senate health care reform billá— the amendment that would increase Medicare reimbursements for smaller hospitals like Skiff Medical Center in Newton.

Last last month, Sen. Tom Harkin touted an amendment to the health care bill that would benefit smaller rural hospitals with larger Medicare reimbursements.

“No hospital should be penalized simply because of its size and location and I am encouraged that our reform bill fixes a concern for our mid-sized Iowa hospitals,” Harkin said.

Some Senate Republicans were critical of “deal-making” amendments added to the health care bill to secure votes. Drawing particular ire, was the so called “Cornhusker kickback” requiring the federal government to pay the entire cost for Medicaid expansion in Nebraska, but the Medicare reimbursement hike for rural hospitals took some flak as well.

Grassley, however, agrees with Harkin that “tweener” hospitals like Skiff need the Medicare boost to help them remain viable entities in their communities. About 300 hospitals nationwide, with nine in Iowa, will be affected by the additional reimbursement and it’s an issue Iowa’s senators have been pursuing for awhile.

“I’ve been working on the tweener hospital thing going back to 2008.” Grassley said. “I’m glad that we’re able to do something for the nine Iowa hospitals including Newton and Grinnell.”

Grassley touched on several other issues during his 10-minute weekly interview session with Iowa media. The past week he had called for full accounting of the federal “cash for clunkers” program, which offered incentives to consumers to spur car sales. Grassley remains uncertain if the cash for clunkers program was truly effective for what it cost.

“It did sell cars. Did it sell cars that would otherwise not have been sold?” Grassley asked. “I guess you’d say it’s a success ... but was it a success for the money it cost the taxpayers? The jury is still out.”

Grassley called for accounting figures on the program because he believes it may have been abused by some. He wants to get a handle on how much the government paid contractors to administer the program.

“I think there is some fraud and abuse.” he said. “I want to know what it cost.”

Grassley said he believes FEMA is ready in the case of more extreme flooding this spring after the snow melts, and he talked briefly about the continued threat of terrorism.

“We are up against a extreme group of jihadists who are out to conquer western civilization and if they can’t actually conquer us, they are out to bring all kinds of (trama) against hte American people and the people of Europe,” he said, it’s “a reminder that we all have to be vigilant.”

Andy Karr can be contacted at 792-3121 ext. 434 or via e-mail at akarr@newtondailynews.com.

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