Washington, D.C.– To mark National Rural Health Day, the Bipartisan Policy Center is releasing a new video that serves as a critical snapshot of the challenges and opportunities for reforming America’s rural health care system. Today, BPC joins with the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health to shine a light on the unique needs of this population.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data show that 60 million Americans living in rural areas are at a greater risk of dying from heart and lung disease, cancer, and stroke than their urban counterparts. They also have higher rates of obesity, tobacco and opioid use.
“It’s time to reinvent our nation’s rural health care system,” said Anand Parekh, M.D., BPC chief medical advisor. “BPC’s video offers health care providers and policymakers with a roadmap to creating a system that will better serve all rural Americans.”
The video showcases BPC’s report, Reinventing Rural Health Care: A Case Study of Seven Upper Midwest States and identifies four specific policy areas for developing recommendations:
1) Rightsizing Health Care Services to Fit Community Needs. Not every community needs a Critical Access Hospital (CAH), communities should adjust services to better suit the needs of the local area. To prevent closures, CAHs should be supported by federal policymakers to transform based on community needs.
2) Creating Rural Funding Mechanisms. Given small population sizes, growing health care needs, and demographic trends, rural areas need alternative Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement metrics and payment mechanisms that allow for value-based alternative payment models and innovation.
3) Building and Supporting the Primary Care Physician Workforce. New workforce models should be examined in collaboration with universities and residency programs to expose providers to rural environments and telemedicine, and reserve placements in medical programs for rural residents. Alternative providers such as nurse practitioners and physician assistants can fill vital primary care roles in rural communities.
4) Expanding Telemedicine Services. Telemedicine is a promising way to connect patients with providers and create a peer network for rural providers that will improve recruitment and retention. However, it must be supported by adequate broadband services and reimbursement. Rural health systems need to provide health professionals with the necessary tools and technology to offer this type of quality care to their patients.
“Rightsizing America’s rural health care system is long overdue and will require bipartisan action from Congress,” said Parekh, BPC chief medical advisor. “It’s imperative that we strengthen the financial viability of the rural health care system and provide much needed innovation and technology to these underserved communities.”