HHS names committee to update criteria for medically needy areas

The Health and Human Services Department (HHS) on Friday appointed a new panel charged with updating the criteria for medically underserved populations (MUPs) and Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs).

Both designations are used by the government to direct resources to regions of the country where medical services are spare.  

Those named to the 24-member committee, created as part of the Democrats' health reform law, represent the programs most affected by the MUP and HPSA designations, including community health centers and rural health clinics. 

"Every effort was made to maintain a geographic and demographic representation for this committee," Mary Wakefield, head of the Health Resources and Services Administration, said in a statement. 

The move won the immediate praise of some rural lawmakers, including Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa). In a statement, the chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee said the panel "demonstrates a commitment to America’s rural areas, which have coped with shortages of health care professionals and facilities for decades."

The provision of the reform law that created the panel is specifically governed by a so-called negotiated rule, a rare designation meaning that all committee hearings will be public and that any changes will require the consensus of panel members. 

Those members can be found by clicking here.