Blackburn Touts Rural Health Care Agenda
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WDEF) – U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn was in Chattanooga this morning.
She met with Hamilton County Mayor Weston Wamp to tout new health care legislation.
According to the USDA, one in five Americans live in a rural area.
These areas have faced increasing access issues to healthcare as the cost of services increases.
Congress is looking to give these rural medical providers a remedy with a Rural Health Care agenda.
Senator Blackburn said that, “One of the things we have learned through these exercises is access to health care is vitally important.”
Senator Blackburn is on the Rural Health Caucus in the Senate.
She along with several other senators from both sides of the aisle, are introducing three pieces of legislation that comprise a Rural Health Care agenda.
These bills are the Rural Health Innovation Act, Rural America Health Corps Act, and the Save Rural Hospitals Act.
These acts are in response to a study from the Center for Healthcare Quality and Payment Reform, who says that over 600 rural hospitals are in danger of closing.
That’s 30% of all rural hospitals across the country.
A big issue Senator Blackburn is focusing on is staff retention and recruitment within the Health Corps Act she has co-sponsored with Illinois Senator Dick Durbin.
Senator Blackburn said, “An incentive for nurses and doctors and dentists and psychiatrists and ophthalmologists, to come practice in a rural area. The incentive there would be that if they do this, their loans, their med school loans would be forgiven tax free.”
Practitioners would have to remain in these rural areas for five years.
Additional focuses of these bills include reforming the Medicare Area Wage Index, which is currently used as a formula to determine reimbursement rates for hospitals based on labor costs.
There would also be several grant programs through the Rural Health Innovation Act that would give up to $500,000 to existing facilities and $750,000 to new facilities through the Department of Health and Human Services.
Senator Blackburn says it’s encouraging to see support from both parties on this issue.
She said that, “It shows that when you work in partnership, like we have with the Tennessee County and UT Med Center. They have worked together to say, how do we solve this? We did our part by getting a waiver that would allow this pilot project.”
Georgia Senator Raphael Warnock has also co-sponsored a portion of this rural health care agenda.
Senator Blackburn met with several officials in Hamilton and Bradley County to discuss other various issues.