WASHINGTON — A bipartisan group of Congressional members aims to improve access to quality health care and services in rural America.
The bipartisan Caucus on Rural Health held its first meeting on September 20 and serves as a forum for U.S. representatives to advance legislation and policy actions related to rural health. Members met to discuss issues facing rural areas.
According to a press release from Tennessee Republican Rep. Mark Green, caucus members will have the opportunity to hear from patients, health care providers and health advocates on this issue. Carrie Cochran-McLean, chief policy officer of the National Rural Health Association, spoke at the inaugural meeting.
According to Greene’s press release, the caucus will “prevent hospital closures, ensure fair and appropriate reimbursement rates, strengthen the health workforce, reduce health disparities, and promote telehealth and other innovative health care delivery models.” It will focus on potential policy solutions, such as “expansion.”
U.S. Rep. Jill Tokuda, D-Hawaii, and Rep. Diana Hershberger, Republican of Tennessee, are co-chairs of the caucus, which currently includes 34 members from both Democrats and Republicans from across the country. There is.
“Many of us decided it was time to pay more attention to rural areas, especially when it comes to health,” Rep. Andrea Salinas, an Oregon Democrat and founding member of the caucus, told State Newsroom. Told.
Hershberger, who has been a community pharmacist for more than 30 years, said she is proud to be a part of this effort that “highlights the needs of patients and health care professionals in rural and remote areas.”
“I look forward to working with my colleagues to address workforce shortages, supply shortages, limited access to care, and other health care challenges to improve patient outcomes,” Hershberger said in a statement. “There is,” he said.
rural areas struggling
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately 66.3 million people, or 20% of the U.S. population, live in rural areas.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought significant attention to the obstacles rural communities face when it comes to health care. Many people living in rural areas experience health care shortages and have to travel long distances to receive treatment.
“No one should have to travel hours through dangerous terrain to see a doctor. But for many people living in rural Oregon, this is just a reality.” Salinas said in a press release.
Salinas said that amid Oregon’s mental health and substance use crisis, “it’s even more important to address these issues now.”
In Oregon’s 6th District, which Salinas represents, more local health care facilities have closed, she said. Her district includes rural areas of Polk, Marion and Yamhill counties.
A medical center in Polk County, Oregon, closed its maternity ward due to a shortage of obstetricians and gynecologists, Salinas said. There is also a shortage of primary care physicians in rural areas of Yamhill County, she said.
Salinas’ district has the largest Latino population in Oregon, but she said the community lacks the care they need.
“Mental health is a big issue for me. I know that in some of our rural counties, we don’t see culturally and linguistically responsive care, especially when it comes to mental health care,” Salinas said. Ta.
In a statement, Green emphasized the importance of removing barriers to emergency care because it “can be a matter of life or death.”
“Tennessee is plagued by local hospital closures and limited access to emergency care. This issue, combined with the second-most hospital closures of any other state, is a pressing issue for my constituents. This is tantamount to a disaster,” Green said in a statement.
Rep. Susan Wild, D-Pennsylvania, said in a press release that she is excited to work with Democratic and Republican colleagues to address these barriers in rural America.
“Whether it’s pushing for fair reimbursement rates for local hospitals or advancing protections for our $340 billion drug pricing program, I’m committed to making sure everyone stays safe, no matter where they live. We will continue to work hard to make sure they have access to the quality, affordable care they need to stay healthy.” Wilde said.
Tokuda said Congress “needs to do more to target resources to address health disparities in rural and remote communities.”
“From growing mental health needs to expanding broadband to support telehealth to addressing provider shortages, we are working to improve access to care across districts and demographics. It is clear that we are united,” Tokuda said in a press release.
Mr. Salinas said he is encouraged that so many delegates share the desire to combat the effects of labor shortages.
“I really hope we can work together across the aisle, because the issues we face, whether it’s mental health, substance use disorders, lack of access to primary care providers, reproductive health issues, are not just problems. Because I always say, ‘Oregon’s CD6 problem is not just an Oregon problem, it’s a national problem,” Salinas said.
Salinas said he is open to looking at what red tape can be removed for health care providers. She mentioned how telehealth services have provided people with the ability to access health care providers in other states during the pandemic.
“So if you live in a rural community, that’s really helpful, but you also have to solve the broadband issue,” Salinas said. “There are many other issues with access to health care.”
Salinas said he hopes caucus members can find common ground on what the problems are and how to solve them.
“I’m just looking forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle,” Salinas said. ”
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