Newswise — The American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) applauds the introduction of the bipartisan Medicare Access to Rural Anesthesiology Act, H.R. 5256, yesterday by Rep. John Moolenaar (R-MI-2) and Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA-2). The bill is ASA-endorsed legislation that will expand rural patients’ access to physician anesthesia care.

“Rural Americans deserve ready access to safe, high-quality anesthesia care,” said ASA President Michael W. Champeau, M.D., FAAP, FASA. “The Medicare Access to Rural Anesthesiology Act is an important step towards ensuring that Americans living in rural areas can be cared for by a physician anesthesiologist when they require surgery.  We are grateful for the leadership of Rep. Moolenaar and Rep. Huffman on this important issue. ASA looks forward to supporting their legislation, and we applaud their efforts to address rural health workforce needs.”

"Michigan residents in rural communities deserve health care they can trust. That is why the Medicare regulations must be modernized and allow rural hospitals to use Medicare funding to hire and pay anesthesiologists. I am proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation which will help make sure seniors in rural America have access to the anesthesia care they need for medical procedures," said Moolenaar. 

“Rural hospitals and health centers, like the many throughout my district, serve communities that would otherwise have no access to essential health care. But their remote locations present many unique challenges – including building and sustaining a strong workforce,” said Huffman. “Our bill would remove barriers for anesthesiologists to participate in rural incentive programs that are a critical tool for rural medical facilities to attract and retain the staff they need to care for our communities.” 

As rural hospitals continue to struggle to attract and retain physicians, policymakers are looking for solutions to encourage critical professionals to practice in these underserved areas.  One such solution is the Medicare Access to Rural Anesthesiology Act.  This legislation will permit certain rural hospitals to use an existing rural incentive program – the Medicare rural hospital pass-through payment – to bring highly educated and trained anesthesiologists into rural communities to partner with their physician-colleague surgeons in providing much-needed local surgical services. Anesthesiologists are uniquely trained physicians who complete four years of medical school, four years of residency and 12,000-16,000 hours of clinical training.

Currently, the Medicare rural pass-through can only be used by rural hospitals for the services of non-physician anesthesia professionals, including certified anesthesiologist assistants (CAAs) and certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs). Physician anesthesiologists are not covered under the program, thereby limiting the ability of rural hospitals to use physician anesthesia services. By making a minor change to the existing law, the Moolenaar-Huffman bill will give eligible rural hospitals the expanded choice of anesthesia professionals – CAA, CRNA and physician anesthesiologist.  Hundreds of hospitals and potentially thousands of patients will benefit from this change. 

ASA thanks Reps. Moolenaar and Huffman for their leadership on rural access to care and looks forward to this legislation advancing quickly through Congress.

H.R. 5256 has been referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means. 

About the American Society of Anesthesiologists

Founded in 1905, the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) is an educational, research, and scientific professional society with more than 56,000 members organized to secure the future and advance of the medical practice of anesthesiology. ASA is committed to ensuring anesthesiologists evaluate and supervise the medical care of all patients before, during, and after surgery. ASA members also lead the care of critically ill patients in intensive care units, as well as treat pain in both acute and chronic settings.

For more information on the field of anesthesiology, visit the American Society of Anesthesiologists online at To learn more about the how physician anesthesiologists help ensure patient safety, visit Like ASA on Facebook, follow ASALifeline on Twitter.