Washington, D.C.–The following is a statement by former Senate Majority Leaders Tom Daschle and Bill Frist, who co-chair the Bipartisan Policy Center’s health project, on the impact of the president’s budget on rural America:
“While we come from different parts of this great country, we join together to express our concern over significant proposed cuts in President Trump’s budget and their potential impact on the health and well-being of Americans living in rural areas. In addition to major cuts to the Medicaid program, the budget proposes elimination or deep cuts to several programs that support millions of rural Americans, including:
- The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (eliminated; $3.4 billion), which helps over 6 million American households in need of home heating assistance during harsh winters.
- The Rural Hospital Flexibility Grant Program (eliminated; $42 million), State Offices of Rural Health (eliminated; $9 million), and Rural Hospital Outreach Grant Program (reduced; $13 million). These programs support critical access hospitals, rural emergency medical services, and other services essential to ensuring access to quality health care in rural areas.
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (25 percent reduction) and Social Security Disability Insurance (4 percent reduction). Nearly 15 percent of rural households receive SNAP benefits, and rural counties have faced steep increases in disability rates over the past decade.
- Elimination of the Denali Commission (Alaska) and the Appalachian Regional Commission (13 states), which support essential rural services, including preventive health and telehealth.
- Health and Human Services Department-funded workforce programs (reduced by $403 million), including oral health professionals, geriatric specialists, public health professionals, and nurses, which help to address rural health professional shortages.
“Of course, we recognize the president’s budget was just the opening salvo in a longer federal budget process, and we have faith our former colleagues will stand up for the interests of their constituents.
“As our nation grapples with the challenges of both health care reform and balancing the federal budget, policymakers must carefully evaluate the impacts of cuts to these programs on those who live in areas where access to quality, affordable health care is a constant challenge.
“Opportunities to improve health care quality and value through delivery and payment reform are abundant, and consistent with our nation’s overall budgetary imperative. As co-chairs of BPC’s Health Project, we and our peers are committed to working with federal state and local partners to address the challenges of providing rural health care services, for example, through innovations in telehealth and innovative care models targeted to vulnerable populations.”