Finkenauer Introduces Bipartisan Health Care Bill in Cedar Rapids

June 17, 2019
Press Release
Keep Physicians Serving Patients Act fixes issue Iowa medical community has struggled with for two decades

CEDAR RAPIDS - Today, Congresswoman Abby Finkenauer (IA-01) announced the introduction of her new bill, the bipartisan Keep Physicians Serving Patients Act of 2019. Finkenauer made the announcement at UnityPoint Health – St. Luke’s Hospital in Cedar Rapids. 

Currently, doctors in Iowa have the seventh lowest Medicare reimbursement rate in the country, meaning many providers struggle to cover the cost of treating Medicare recipients. This is exacerbated by Iowa’s aging population, many of whom rely on Medicare. As a result, many Iowa health facilities have a hard time staying open and attracting the talent they need to serve patients across the state. Finkenauer’s legislation adjusts the geographic practice cost index (GPCI) to accurately reflect the cost of labor and practice expenses. The current formula underestimates the cost of labor and practice expenses in rural areas, which can often be higher than those in urban areas. 

“I’ve been hearing from folks across our district who are worried about being able to get the health care they need,” said Congresswoman Finkenauer. “When a doctor’s office or health clinic closes in a rural area, Iowans have to drive hours to get care and it means we’re losing good jobs in our communities. For two decades, Iowa doctors have been shortchanged by a government formula that underestimates the costs of labor and practice expenses. This bill is the direct result of listening to the needs of our small medical practices, health care clinics, community stakeholders, and patients. I’m proud to have worked with my Republican colleagues to introduce legislation that will help our doctors keep serving Iowa patients.” 

Finkenauer was joined at today’s event by Dr. Brian Privett, President-Elect of the Iowa Medical Society which represents 6,800 Iowa physicians, residents, and medical students, and Dr. Dustin Arnold, Chief Medical Officer at UnityPoint Health - St. Luke’s.

“Without immediate action, Iowa will fall further behind in the competition to recruit the next generation of physicians and our seniors will face greater difficulty in accessing necessary medical care,” said Dr. Privett. “The Keep Physicians Serving Patients Act is critical to maintaining access to care in Iowa. We applaud Congresswoman Finkenauer for her leadership in continuing to fight to fix the GPCI formula, and place Iowa seniors and their physicians on an equal footing with the rest of the country.”

This has been a priority of Iowa’s medical community and patient advocates for over twenty years. To introduce the legislation, Finkenauer worked with Congressman Ron Kind (WI-03) and with two Republicans, Congressman Adrian Smith (NE-03) and Congressman Darin LaHood (IL-18).

“Living in a rural area should not impede access to quality of health care,” said Congressman Smith. “While GCPIs are intended help prevent this, our current GPCIs are calculated using inaccurate and outdated data which does not reflect the true cost of practicing in rural areas. This legislation would ensure Medicare payments to non-urban physicians better reflect the cost of providing care in localities where they work, helping them continue providing needed services to patients. I am glad to continue to work with my colleagues to support common sense GPCI reforms.”

“Ensuring Medicare providers in rural communities like those I represent in central and west-Illinois are not unfairly impacted from lower payments based on an outdated geographic practice cost indexes (GPCI) is vital,” said Congressman LaHood. “I’m proud to join this bipartisan group to introduce this important piece of legislation, which will modernize the GPCI formula, accounting for the unique practice needs of rural providers, and ensure physicians can continue serving patients in need regardless of where they live.”

The legislation was endorsed by Chambers of Commerce in Dubuque, Waterloo and Cedar Falls, Jackson County, and Cedar Rapids. “The Economic Alliance supports pro-growth policies and we applaud Representative Finkenauer’s efforts on this front,” said Doug Neumann, Executive Director of the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance. “Updating the current system will create a more equitable system and allow Iowa doctors to receive their fair share for the services they provide. With Iowa experiencing a workforce shortage in all professions, including doctors, this legislation would go a long way in giving the competitive edge we need to recruit and retain physicians.”

Other local and state endorsing organizations include: Gundersen Health System, Iowa Academy of Family Physicians, Iowa Medical Society, Iowa Optometric Association, Iowa Osteopathic Medical Association, Iowa Podiatric Medical Society, Iowa Primary Care Association, Iowa Psychological Association, Marshfield Clinic Health System, MercyOne, UnityPoint Health System

National endorsing organizations include: American Academy of Dermatology, American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Neurology, American Association of Neurological Surgeons, American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, American College of Emergency Physicians, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American College of Radiology, American College of Rheumatology, American College of Surgeons, American Gastroenterological Association, American Optometric Association, American Osteopathic Association, American Podiatric Medical Association, American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association, American Society of Plastic Surgeons, American Urological Association, Congress of Neurological Surgeons, National Rural Health Association, Society of Thoracic Surgeons