Readout: HHS Hosts Roundtable Marking National Rural Health Day
Biden Harris-Administration Hosted a Roundtable to Hear Directly from Rural Health Care Leaders about Access to Health Care Services in Rural Communities
As part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s Investing in Rural America Series, on Monday, November 13, 2023, Andrea Palm, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Deputy Secretary; Carole Johnson, Administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA); Mandy Cohen, M.D., Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); and Meena Seshamani, M.D., Deputy Director of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and Director for Center of Medicare, met with leading rural health care provider, consumer and advocacy organizations to mark National Rural Health Day and discuss the work of the Administration to advance the health and well-being of rural Americans. National Rural Health Day is celebrated each November to highlight efforts to ensure access to health care services in rural communities across the country.
Having grown-up in a rural community, HHS Deputy Secretary Andrea Palm spoke of her commitment to and the Biden-Harris Administration’s work delivering the best health outcomes for rural America. She noted the Department’s focus, through HRSA, on training and growing the health care workforce to support rural Americans, addressing the opioid epidemic, and expanding access to maternal health care services. She also highlighted the critical activities of CMS to leverage Medicare payment policies to strengthen health care services in rural communities, as well as the creation of a new CDC Office of Rural Health to focus on rural public health. The Deputy Secretary emphasized the Department’s goal of expanding collaboration across HHS agencies to reduce the burden on rural providers and grantees in interacting with HHS programs.
HRSA Administrator Johnson underscored the importance of strengthening the workforce to support the health care needs of rural America and spoke of the Biden-Harris Administration’s historic level of investment through the American Rescue Plan in loan repayments to primary care providers in return for their practice in rural areas – a key recruitment tool for rural communities. She also emphasized the HRSA Federal Office of Rural Health Policy’s award-winning work launching new and expanded treatment sites for opioid use disorder in rural communities, and HRSA’s work to improve pre-natal, delivery, and post-natal care across rural areas. CDC’s Dr. Cohen highlighted the creation of the long-awaited CDC Office of Rural Health that will help all of government best leverage CDC’s public health expertise to support rural America. CMS’ Dr. Seshamani focused on the Administration’s work to strengthen Medicare to better serve rural communities, including through increasing graduate medical education slots to train more new physicians in rural areas, making permanent tele-behavioral health services to ease access to care, and addressing the start-up costs of the Medicare Shared Savings Program to alleviate a key barrier to rural providers’ participation in the program.
Leadership from the following rural community partners participated in Monday’s event:
- National Rural Health Association
- National Association of Rural Health Clinics
- National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health
- American Hospital Association
- Association of State and Territorial Health Officials
- Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs
- Grantmakers in Health
- National Association of Community Health Centers
Participants discussed the importance of the Administration’s commitment to rural health and the opportunities that training more providers, leveraging technology, and supporting rural health care infrastructure offer to help sustain and increase access to care in rural communities. Several participants championed creative strategies for building and deploying care teams in innovative and sustainable ways to strengthen community health. All participants stressed the need to be innovative when tackling rural health challenges, echoing this year’s theme for National Rural Health Day.
This week’s roundtable continues the Biden-Harris Administration’s work to support rural communities, including through critical new investments in expanding rural behavioral health and supporting rural health care facilities in the President’s Fiscal Year 2024 budget.