Trump Administration Makes Tester Proposal to Bring More Doctors to Rural Areas Permanent, Boosting Montana’s 48 Rural Hospitals

Senator’s Restoring Rural Residencies Act incorporated in Administration’s rule change, bolstering Montana’s 48 Critical Access Hospitals

The Trump Administration has permanently adopted a proposal by U.S. Senator Jon Tester that will help address doctor shortages across rural America and allow Montana’s 48 Critical Access Hospitals to recruit more doctors.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) finalized the rule change that incorporates Tester’s Restoring Rural Residencies Act allowing Medicare to make reimbursements for the time residents spend in training at Critical Access Hospitals, bringing new doctors into rural settings and encouraging more medical professionals to practice in rural communities.

“The Administration did the right thing by breaking down the barriers to training physicians in rural Montana,” Tester said. “It’s a pretty simple strategy: if we want to see more doctors in rural areas, we’ve got to train them in rural areas. Allowing medical residents to train at our Critical Access Hospitals is a huge step forward that’ll help ensure health care is more accessible to communities across rural America.”

Montana is home to 48 Critical Access Hospitals, which are facilities in rural communities that have fewer than 25 inpatient beds. Previously, regulations prevented Medicare from funding residents’ training time at these facilities, significantly limiting recruitment and training of medical professionals in rural states like Montana.

Tester originally introduced his Restoring Rural Residencies Act in 2016 after hosting a Rural Health Summit that brought together 100 health care professionals and policy-makers to discuss challenges facing health care providers in Montana. He reintroduced the bill at the beginning of this year and wrote multiple letters to CMS demanding they adopt the policy change. CMS proposed the change in May and recently finalized the rule.

Tester has been a consistent voice for rural hospitals in Washington. Earlier this year, he introduced two bipartisan bills that would strengthen relationships between rural hospitals and medical schools and increase the number of residents serving in Montana. During last year’s budget negotiations, he secured millions of dollars in funding to invest in rural medicine and successfully fought to save long-term funding for Community Health Centers across the country.