WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Roger Wicker, R-Miss., Jon Tester, D-Mont., Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., were joined by 37 Senators in sending a letter today to Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tom Price regarding health care in rural America.
The letter emphasizes the importance of rural health-care providers and their critical role in rural communities. The letter reads, in part, “As you take on this new leadership role at HHS, we request that you work with us to ensure that the federal government does not act as an impediment to providing health care in rural communities. Overreaching and onerous regulations from Washington disproportionately harm rural America. We believe that together we can enact and implement effective policies that help providers innovate in care delivery and enable them to make efficient use of available resources.”
“Nearly 90 percent of our nation is rural, including many parts of Mississippi,” Wicker said. “Technology and innovation have allowed for better access to health care, but there are still vulnerable areas where quality, affordable care is lacking. I look forward to working with Secretary Price and the new Administration to ensure that rural America has a seat at the table as we move forward with improving the nation’s health-care system.”
“I’ve been traveling across Montana to hear from folks about the challenges facing health care in rural America,” said Tester. “One thing is abundantly clear: families want certainty about their future, and they want Congress and the new administration to make responsible decisions to ensure access to quality, affordable health care—especially in rural states like Montana.”
“Residents of rural Iowa and the doctors and nurses who serve them deserve fair treatment as health care policy is made,” Grassley said. “Rural hospitals and doctors have different challenges than those in urban areas. Small, rural hospitals are a lifeline in many small towns in Iowa. Health care policy ought to recognize rural needs just as it recognizes urban needs.”
“Every North Dakotan – no matter how rural or remote their hometown – deserves access to quality health services,” said Heitkamp. “Now that Mr. Price is secretary, I’m committed to working with him to make sure he fully understands the health care needs and challenges in rural communities and that he makes them a priority. Every day I come to the U.S. Senate fighting for rural America, and that includes making sure rural communities get access to care.”
More than 80 rural hospitals have closed in recent years. Some estimates show another 700 rural hospitals are at risk of closure.
In addition to Wicker, Tester, Grassley, and Heitkamp, the letter was signed by Sens. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc.; John Barrasso, R-Wyo.; Roy Blunt, R-Mo.; John Boozman, R-Ark.; Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio; Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.; Bob Casey, D-Penn.; Thad Cochran, R-Miss.; Susan Collins, R-Maine; Mike Crapo, R-Idaho; Steve Daines, R-Mont.; Joe Donnelly, D-Ind.; Mike Enzi, R-Wyo.; Joni Ernst, R-Iowa; Deb Fischer, R-Neb.; Al Franken, D-Minn.; Cory Gardner, R-Colo.; Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.; Dean Heller, R-Nev.; John Hoeven, R-N.D.; Jim Inhofe, R-Okla.; Ron Johnson, R-Wisc.; Angus King, I-Maine; Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.; James Lankford, R-Okla.; Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.; John McCain, R-Ariz.; Jerry Moran, R-Kan.; Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska; David Perdue, R-Ga.; James Risch, R-Idaho; Pat Roberts, R-Kan.; Mike Rounds, R-S.D.; Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H.; John Thune, R-S.D.; Tom Udall, D-N.M.; and Todd Young, R-Ind.
The letter reads in full:
Dear Secretary Price,
As senators representing rural states, we look forward to working with you this Congress to ensure access to quality care and to protect the viability of facilities in rural America. Almost ninety percent of our nation is geographically rural, with 20 percent of the population living outside urban areas, often miles away from a health care practitioner.
We appreciate your focus on rural America and look forward to working with you and President Trump to strengthen access to health care services in vulnerable rural communities across the country. Health care is constantly evolving in our country, and rural providers, patients, and facilities need reliable partners at all levels in order to be successful.
Rural hospitals play a critical role in communities across this country. In addition to providing health care services to surrounding communities, hospitals are often one of the main employers. It is critical we work together as Republicans and Democrats to ensure these hospitals are able to continue to provide care.
We recognize that providers need to adapt to changes in the delivery of health care. We are encouraged by innovations we have seen in our states as providers test new care models and technologies like telehealth and remote patient monitoring. We know you will find bipartisan interest in supporting these types of innovations, and we look forward to working with you to improve our health-care system. We recognize the importance of tackling this issue in a fiscally responsible way but believe investments in rural America yield substantial returns on investment.
As you take on this new leadership role at HHS, we request that you work with us to ensure that the federal government does not act as an impediment to providing health care in rural communities. Overreaching and onerous regulations from Washington disproportionately harm rural America. We believe that together we can enact and implement effective policies that help providers innovate in care delivery and enable them to make efficient use of available resources.
We hope you remain dedicated to ensuring all Americans—no matter where they live—have access to quality, affordable care. We look forward to continuing to work with you as we move forward to improve health care in rural America.