WASHINGTON, D.C. - Iowa Representative Dave Loebsack and Missouri Representative Sam Graves today introduced a bipartisan bill to address critical healthcare shortages in rural communities.
"Rural hospitals are bedrocks of their communities, providing more than just high quality, local access to health care," Rep. Loebsack said. "Rural hospitals stimulate the local economy, creating jobs in the hospital and the community. Without local health care, lives and communities are lost. Our bill will save rural Iowans as well as the communities where they have built their lives."
"In the past two years, more rural hospitals have closed than in the previous ten years combined," Rep. Graves said. "These closures have left millions of Missourians, particularly the elderly, vulnerable during times of medical emergency. The Save Rural Hospitals Act will stop impending hospital closures and ensure all rural Americans have access to the healthcare they need."
Nearly 300 rural hospitals could be closed in the coming years, leaving 700,000 Americans at risk of losing access to their closest emergency room. This comes as nearly 80 percent of rural counties are facing primary care health professional shortages, and 9 percent of those counties have no physician at all.
The Save Rural Hospitals Act will eliminate the Medicare sequester for rural hospitals, and it provides a permanent extension of the rural ambulance and super-rural ambulance payments. It will also provide an innovation model for rural hospitals that continue to struggle. This model will ensure access to emergency care and allow hospitals the choice to offer outpatient care that meets the health needs of their rural community.
"The National Rural Health Association applauds Representatives Graves and Loebsack on the introduction of this comprehensive legislative response to the rural hospital closures across the nation," said Jodi Schmidt, 2015 president of the nonprofit organization. "We're calling on Congress to pass this comprehensive legislation to save rural hospitals and patients and to provide a pathway to the future for rural health."