The challenges of finding quality, affordable health care is a topic I hear all over my area of Pennsylvania. As a member of the bipartisan Rural Health Caucus, I’m constantly working to find ways to expand and protect access to care for everyone in our community — because your health care shouldn’t depend on where you live. It’s an issue that matters to Democrats, and it matters to Republicans. And that’s a problem we need to work together to solve.
About 60 million people live in rural communities across the United States, including more than a third of Pennsylvanians. Across my district, access to health care in rural areas is a recurring challenge, although I am pleased to see the expansion of two of our hospital networks into rural areas. These communities face a shortage of health care providers—in fact, 26 percent of rural Pennsylvanians live in a federally defined health care professional shortage area. The situation is complicated by the fact that 30 percent of the doctors currently working in rural areas plan to leave the workforce within the next five years. This is a huge problem for access to preventive care, which is critical to overall health and well-being.
That’s why Rep. Dan Meuser (R-Pa.) and I are working to pass our bill, the bipartisan Fairness for Rural Teaching Hospitals Act. This bill would update the calculations used by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to ensure that rural teaching hospitals receive higher and fairer compensation for the work they do to train the next generation of rural physicians—work that is critical to combating the shortage of health care providers in our communities.
Ensuring our rural hospitals receive the funding they need is key to attracting, training and retaining talented health professionals in every community so that people who need quality, affordable health care can find it no matter where they live.
In addition to making sure that rural areas have providers to serve them, we must prevent discrimination by hospitals and clinics that participate in the 340B drug pricing program, which many rural communities depend on for lower prescription drug prices. Under no circumstances should pharmacy benefit managers, insurance companies, or drug companies be allowed to erode affordability savings for American families – which is why I support bipartisan PROTECT 340B legislation that would prevent them from undermining patient choice.
Also, at a time when health care is increasingly taking place outside of hospitals and doctor’s offices, we need to expand access to affordable, high-speed Internet. Telehealth appointments offer flexibility and convenience, which attracts many patients – but these appointments require a reliable internet connection, which is often not available in our rural areas. The Affordable Connection Program, created by the bipartisan Infrastructure Act, is beginning to work to address this problem by providing broadband assistance to more than 36,000 households in Pennsylvania’s 7th District, along with $1.2 billion in Bipartisan Infrastructure Act funds coming to our nation to fund broadband infrastructure. . I support making sure that every corner of my district sees these investments in high-speed Internet, and I will continue to work to make Internet access affordable for all Pennsylvania families so that telehealth services are available.
I believe that healthcare is a human right and that every person deserves access to quality and affordable healthcare – regardless of zip code. I will always continue to fight to ensure that my community, and all communities, have the opportunity to see a doctor, afford their medications, and feel the peace of mind that comes with quality healthcare. No one deserves less.
Susan Wild represents Pennsylvania’s 7th District.
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