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NRHA Urges Congress to Support Funding the Rural Health Safety Net

The Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health held a hearing this morning titled “Investing in America’s Health Care” to discuss funding for various programs that are essential to the rural health safety net. The hearing focused on 12 pieces of funding legislation, including H.R. 1943, the “Community Health Center and Primary Care Workforce Expansion Act of 2019”, which NRHA has been following closely. The hearing focused on how supporting stable funding for Community Health Centers (CHCs), the National Health Service Corps (NHSC), and the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education program (THCGME) is vital to sustaining health care access and improving health outcomes, especially in rural America.

There are over 1,400 CHCs that provide care to over 25 million Americans. Notably, one in five rural Americans rely upon CHCs for health care services. Health care workforce shortages are far too common in rural America; 20% of the population lives in rural America, yet only 9% of physicians practice in rural areas. However, the NHSC and the THCGME program are creating opportunities for physicians to train in rural areas, and research indicates that physicians trained at THCs are 30% more likely to work in rural or underserved communities. Funding for these programs is essential because they each are valuable means of reducing health care workforce shortages in rural America.  

Throughout this morning’s hearing, witnesses and congressional representatives acknowledged that these health care facilities and workforce training programs are critical components of the rural health safety net. Dean Germano, CEO of Shasta Community Health Center and NRHA member, provided testimony during this hearing based on his 27 years of experience as a rural CHC administrator in Redding, California. He compellingly spoke of the importance of stable funding and the need to train physicians in rural and medically underserved areas, noting that 60% of physicians will stay in the communities where they are trained. 

Appropriate funding of these important programs is a crucial part of addressing the challenges faced in rural communities across the United States, and they present representatives with opportunities to champion commonsense, bipartisan legislation. NRHA supports stable funding for CHCs, the NHSC, and the THCGME program, and NRHA encourages both House and Senates offices to also advocate and vote on behalf of for these vital rural health safety net programs.

Reach out to your Representative and let them know you support access to health care in rural America though these necessary rural health facilities and programs. Please call your members of Congress and help NRHA educate members of Congress and congressional staff about the CHCs, the NHSC, and the THCGME program and their importance to YOUR rural community.

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