BPC Report Addresses Rural Health

The Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) https://bipartisanpolicy.org released the report “Reinventing Rural Health Care: A Case Study of Seven Upper Midwest States” highlighting the challenges of healthcare delivery in rural areas in the Upper Midwest and identifies key areas for reform.

The report includes insight from nearly 100 national leaders and healthcare providers in Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming on the current state of rural healthcare and the strategies and tools needed to deliver high quality high value care to rural and frontier areas in these states.

BPC’s survey of the seven Upper Midwest states identified four specific policy areas:

  •  Rightsizing Healthcare Services to Fit Community Needs
  • Creating Rural Funding Mechanisms
  • Building and Supporting the Primary Care Physician Workforce
  • Expanding Telemedicine Services

 

The BPC held a chat with several leaders on Capitol Hill January 17, 2018 to discuss the release of the report. The panelists included Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and Senator Mike Rounds (R-SD) to discuss what does work in rural America and how there needs to be systematic changes made in order to produce stability for healthcare.

Just recently on January 8, 2018, Senator Heitkamp and Pat Roberts (R-KS) introduced the “State Offices of Rural Health Reauthorization Act” which would fund the State Offices of Rural Health’s Grant Program.

Senator Heitkamp is very concerned about healthcare for Native Indians as they generally live ten years less than the average and the Senator feels strongly that providing access to healthcare in their communities needs to be improved so they are not left behind the rest of the population.

Senator Rounds emphasized the need for high speed broadband especially to deal with emergency situations, the need to expand telemedicine capabilities, and especially the need to produce high speed technology capable of incorporating a high level of built in security.

Just recently, on January 16, Ajit Pai FCC Chairman, announced an order which is under review to promote more high speed broadband deployment in rural areas.  If adopted, this order would provide over $500 million in additional funding for cooperatives and small rural carriers.

Anand Parekh, Chief Medical Advisor, BPC, followed the discussion with the Senators with a panel discussion including the following panelists:

  • Keith Mueller, PhD, Interim Dean, University of Iowa College of Public Health, Director, RUPRI, Center for Rural Health Policy Analysis
  • John Dunn, R.N Director Physician Services, Nebraska Methodist Health System
  • Heidi Duncan, M.D., Physician Director of Health Policy, Billings Clinic
  • Darroid Bertsch, CEO, Sakakawea Medical Center and Coal County Community Health Care

 

The panelists suggested ways to improve rural healthcare:

  • Expose young medical students to rural practices
  • Enable rural practices to partner with mental healthcare providers
  • Increase the use of telemedicine
  • Help primary care physicians so they can effectively practice in rural areas
  • Encourage rural health centers and hospitals to work together
  • Establish uniform policies to drive costs down
  • Bring groups and stakeholders together to talk about the culture of health in their communities.

 

Go to https://bipartisanpolicy.org/library/reinventing-rural-health-care to view the BPC report released January 17, 2018. The development of the report was funded through a grant from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust.

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