PNWU’s Jacob Thatcher Represents Health Care Students at National Rural Health Advocacy Conference on Capitol Hill
By: Jacob Thatcher, OMS III
Once a year, those involved in the rural America converge on Washington, DC to congress about rural health issues. I have always been passionate about rural health, and for the past three years, I’ve been involved in the National Rural Health Association as a past “fellow” and
current member of Rural Health Congress.
Currently, the patient to primary care physician ratio in rural areas is only 39.8 physicians per 100,000 people, compared to 53.3 physicians per 100,000 in urban areas. In other words, about a fifth of Americans live in rural areas, but barely a tenth of physicians practice there.
Within the next decade, AAMC projects a shortage of 95,000 doctors—mostly in rural communities. When it comes to rural hospitals, NRHA projects that over 600 are at risk of closing. Health care policy seems to be understood by everybody but providers. It is important for us to take a more offensive stance!
Some good things happened while we were in D.C., and I don’t think it is a coincidence that it happened at the same time rural was on the hill!
Congress passed, and the President signed into law, the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018. Over the next few weeks we expect appropriations to be finalized which would effectuate the budget agreement's funding commitments for opioid response, continued funding for community health centers, extension of Children’s Health Insurance Program through 2027, and the renewal of several medicare/medicaid provisional rural reimbursements. With the continual threat of government shutdown, this is a real win for rural healthcare.
Unfortunately, the president’s budget released yesterday was not all we were hoping for.
The new budget proposes $65 billion cuts in non-defense discretionary funding, including deep cuts to public health programs, federal student financial aid and graduate medical education. We will wait and see what happens on Thursday, when Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar testifies before the Senate Finance Committee on the Administration's budget request. For now, however, that legislation for tax reform has passed, and we expect congress to begin focusing on strengthening infrastructure. This could be a big win for rural, as healthcare is often the number-one economy and is considered the lifeblood of rural communities.
We met with:
Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers, 5th Congressional District, Representative Rick Larsen, WA-02, Erin Schneider Press Assistant & Scheduler, Representative Suzan DelBene, 1st Congressional District, Representative Pramila Jayapal, Ven Neralla, Legislative Assistant, Senator Maria Cantwell and Nico Janssen, Legislative Assistant
We also met with:
Senator Jim Risch, Idaho
Senator Mike Crapo, Idaho