The Senate Finance Committee held a hearing on May 24 entitled “Rural Health Care in America: Challenges and Opportunities.” The hearing featured testimony from health care leaders from rural hospitals and related areas. The witnesses included: Konnie Martin, CEO of San Luis Valley Health in Alamosa, CO; Susan Thompson, senior vice president of integration and optimization for UnityPoint Health in West Des Moines, IA; and Karen Murphy, executive vice president; chief innovation officer for Geisinger in Danville, PA; George H. Pink, PhD, Humana distinguished professor, deputy director, NC Rural Health Research Program Sheps Center for Health Services Research, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; and Keith J. Mueller, PhD, interim dean, College of Public Health at the University of Iowa.
The speakers highlighted the current state of health care in rural American. The hearing focused on innovative ways in which rural health care providers are working to ensure continued access and improvement in care, as well as the difficulties providers face in rural communities. Committee Chairman, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) explained at the beginning of the hearing, “One consistent theme we will hear from our witnesses today is flexibility – they want the flexibility to design innovative ideas that are tailored to fit the specific needs of the communities they serve. We believe that flexibility is key for rural communities, and a “one-size fits all” approach to rural policy is destined for failure.”
The American Hospital Association (AHA) submitted a statement for the record. They recommended legislative and regulatory actions to maintain access to health care in rural communities – from enacting alternative payment models such as the rural emergency medical center to providing regulatory relief and expanding access to telehealth services.