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Health Care Shortage Areas: Designations Not a Useful Tool for Directing Resources to the Underserved

HEHS-95-200 Published: Sep 08, 1995. Publicly Released: Sep 08, 1995.
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GAO reviewed the Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) systems for identifying geographical areas where access to medical care is limited, focusing on: (1) how well the systems identify areas with primary care shortages; (2) how well the systems target federal funding to the underserved; and (3) whether the HHS proposal to combine the systems would lead to improvements.


Matter for Congressional Consideration

Matter Status Comments
Congress should direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services to suspend funding for the Medicare Incentive Payment program until HHS can ensure that funding is specifically targeted to Medicare beneficiaries having difficulty accessing a physician because of low Medicare reimbursement rates for primary care services.
Closed – Not Implemented
This recommendation has been superseded by a recommendation in GAO/HEHS-99-36.
To assist underserved populations in accessing federal program resources most appropriate for their needs, and to enable HHS in targeting its resources more specifically to them, Congress should remove legislative requirements for HPSA or MUA designation as a condition of participation in federal programs. Instead, Congress should direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services to incorporate the necessary screening requirements into the conditions of participation of each program that will best match the type of program strategy with the type of access barrier existing for specific underserved populations.
Closed – Not Implemented
No action has been taken by Congress to implement this recommendation.

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