The Negotiated Rulemaking Committee appointed by Sec. Sebelius to review the criteria and process of identifying Medically Underserved Areas (MUA) and Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSA) begins its work tomorrow in Rockville, MD. These designation methods have been essentially unchanged for many years, and the designation makes available monies and programs such as a Medicare bonus payment for primary care physicians practicing in HPSAs, National Health Service Corps Physicians who repay medical school loans via service in underserved areas, and Community Health Centers that provide a key safety net, and in some communities the only viable primary care system. The committee is to complete its work by Spring, and if a consensus is reached, that consensus would become a recommendation for the Secretary to adopt an interim rule that would then be open to public comment. Final decisions rest with HRSA and the Secretary of Health and Human Services.
If a new set of criteria and rules are developed and adopted, they will be used to allocate resources and monies that are designed to create and support health care services for underserved areas and/or groups. The point is to develop a meaningful way in which to allocate scare resources available for this important task.
The committee was created in the PPACA, under the auspices of the Negotiated Rulemaking Act. Here is the charter of the committee. I am one of 28 members of this committee. Since the meetings are public, I am planning to be blogging and tweeting during the meetings and deliberations as the context and setting allows and is appropriate. The goal is to share a bit of insight into how this committee--one small aspect of implementing health care reform--works. I am honored to have this opportunity, and look forward to sharing it with you.