Your voice. Louder.

A unified, authentic rural voice is needed now in Washington D.C. more than ever before. More than 430 rural advocates were that voice in our nation’s capitol last week as part of the National Rural Health Association’s 25th annual Rural Health Policy Institute. It was our largest ever D.C. event, evidence of the growing concern that rural Americans have about the future of rural health care today. It’s been 22 years since I worked on the Hill for a member of Congress. But I remember that while it was certainly nice to meet industry lobbyists, I wanted to hear from constituents, real people. Even more importantly, I wanted to hear from various interests, with a common agenda or path forward. That is precisely the perspective and the approach that hundreds of NRHA members took to meeting after meeting on the Hill last week. Divisiveness spikes television ratings, but it does not result in good policy. Actually, it results in no policy as we have seen far too often. We expect our policy leaders to work together to find common sense solutions for our country. Is it so difficult to believe that our policy makers likewise expect communities to come together to propose common solutions? It is a powerful message when a rural doctor, a rural nurse and a rural community leader come together to share why critical access hospitals are necessary for the survival of rural America. You would expect to hear that message from NRHA staff and from the hospital CEO, and we make sure policy makers often hear that message. But it is another thing altogether to hear that message from the community itself. It becomes your voice, louder. As we move forward, I hope you consider adding your voice to NRHA. The 25th annual Policy Institute was a great start to 2014, but a unified voice must be maintained if rural America hopes to maintain health care access for future generations.

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