Rural Perspectives from Texans on Capitol Hill
Authors: Deborah Whitley & Dave Pearson, President of TORCH
Rural health has many challenges, including reduced funding and health of the communities. Rural leaders convened to discuss issues, strategies, ideas and encouragement for the upcoming year at the annual National Rural Health Association (NRHA) Rural Health Policy Institute in February 2017 in Washington, D.C.
Numerous legislators from the Senate and House were there to discuss issues directly associated with health care as they relate to Medicare, Medicaid and rural providers. There was an overall positive attitude that rural providers are top of mind, and the message to preserve rural health care has never been stronger.
When asked his favorite moment from the 2017 Rural Health Policy Institute, Texas Organization of Rural and Community Hospitals (TORCH) President David Pearson answered, “I am heartened by the fact that just days after the presidential inauguration we are having open conversations about both the challenges facing rural health care and potential solutions at a time when real change seems imminently possible. But it’s what happens next that matters most.”
The Hill visits on Wednesday are my favorite portion of the conference; this is where we carry the message of rural health’s needs to state legislators. I was able to join my state, Texas, and visit with our state legislators to help emphasize that as changes are made to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), we need to make it work for rural Americans going forward.
While the ACA took critical steps to improve the health of rural populations, the lack of plan competition in rural markets, exorbitant premiums and copays, co-op collapses, lack of Medicaid expansion and devastating Medicare cuts to rural providers all collided to create a health care crisis in rural America that needs to be addressed.
Regarding the turnout and experience of the Hill visits, David stated, “NRHA boasted the largest turnout ever for a Policy Institute and you could feel the sense of urgency that both drew our fellow members to Washington, but also is compelling them to ensure that the visits we make this year are the most meaningful yet.”
There was a request for a Save Rural Hospitals Act co-sponsor that should serve as a viable option to stop rural hospital closures and provide an innovative, sustainable delivery model for rural health care’s future.
Of the proposed legislation, David said, “The Save Rural Hospitals Act is the single biggest improvement on the horizon for rural hospitals. I hope Congress will take its role in our future viability seriously and do everything in its power to help. Many thanks to all those who came to D.C. to share that urgent message.”
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