Sens. Heitkamp, Smith Hold Discussion on the Future of Rural Health Care in Breckenridge
Targeted News Service (Press Releases)
BRECKENRIDGE, Minnesota, May 12 -- The office of Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-North Dakota, issued the following news release:
U.S. Senators Heidi Heitkamp and Tina Smith (D-MN), leaders of the Senate Rural Health Caucus, today held a roundtable discussion on the challenges and future of rural health delivery.
Heitkamp and Smith were joined by rural health leaders from both North Dakota and Minnesota at CHI St. Francis Health Breckenridge. Attendees included representatives of Sanford Health, CHI Home Health and Hospice, CHI Oakes, UND Center for Rural Health, Stevens Community Medical Center, Ortonville Area Health Services, Community Health Services, Inc., and Northwestern Mental Health Center.
The senators discussed how critical Medicaid and the Medicaid expansion are to supporting rural patients, hospitals, and clinics, and heard from providers about the challenges they face and what policies are needed to provide more accessible and affordable care.
"Every day I come to work in the U.S. Senate, I'm fighting for rural America, and every individual and family across rural North Dakota deserves access to reliable health care," Heitkamp said. "Through our work on the Rural Health Caucus, Senator Smith and I work to make sure rural America has a seat at the table when Congress is dealing with issues that affect rural health, that includes making sure Medicare and Medicaid - lifelines in rural communities - will be around to serve the families who need them. We're proud of recent successes like securing funding for CHIP, community health centers, and other rural health priorities, but we face steep challenges to affordability and quality of care moving forward, and we won't stop fighting to support our rural communities and those on the front lines of providing care to rural and at-risk populations."
"Families in rural communities in Minnesota, North Dakota and across the country face barriers and unique challenges when it comes to accessing quality health care," said Smith. "As leaders of the Senate Rural Health Caucus, Senator Heitkamp and I have made addressing these challenges a top priority. We'll take what we learned today back to Washington, D.C. and work with our Senate colleagues to improve rural health care. And we'll also highlight some of the innovative ways rural health providers in our States are helping families get the care they need."
Heitkamp welcomed Smith to the Rural Health Caucus as an honorary co-chair earlier this year. The caucus works to underscore the need for the federal government to identify and prioritize issues related to critical health care services in rural America.
Heitkamp has long pushed to improve and expand health services for North Dakotans in rural and remote areas. In January, she introduced bipartisan legislation with U.S. Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS), Smith, and others to strengthen rural health care delivery systems and improve access to high quality services for individuals living in rural and underserved areas. The bill passed out of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions in February.
Heitkamp also secured several important provisions boosting rural health in the bipartisan budget agreement signed into law in February, including provisions to support Community Health Centers, extend the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), support low-income children and at-risk pregnant women and parents, and repeal the cap on occupational therapy. Last year, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) heeded her call to make sure rural communities are better prioritized in the federal government through the creation of a Rural Health Council to take rural health care into account when federal rules are written.
Smith, a member of the Senate Health Committee, has been working to tackle the ongoing shortage of resources to treat mental health in rural areas. Just last month, Smith successfully added a measure to expand mental health services for students and communities to bipartisan legislation that addresses the ongoing opioid crisis. Smith also understands that Minnesotans in rural areas have been hit hard by the high cost of prescription drugs, and that's why the first bill she introduced in the Senate would address a big pharmaceutical tactic that keeps lower-priced prescription drugs inaccessible to families and seniors in Minnesota and across the country.