$374M federal funding sought for rural health, adoption of unique patient identifiers

The American Hospital Association is asking U.S. senators to boost rural health program funding by $43 million next year. 

The group said in a May 4 letter to Senate lawmakers that the programs support behavioral health, substance use and workforce training in rural communities. The funding is needed to ensure these programs remain available. 

The group also asked Congress to remove the ban on federal funding to create a nationwide unique patient identifier. A unique patient identifier would create a single medical identification number for each person, used to organize their medical information, according to Health Affairs. In 1998, then-Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, introduced language banning the use of federal funding for its development. The ban has been included in every subsequent congressional budget proposal. 

"Funding for a (unique patient identifier) would promote safe, efficient and timely care for patients while reducing administrative costs," the American Hospital Association said in the letter.

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