The Biden Administration announced their efforts to improve healthcare in rural communities. Their main goal is to help rural hospitals receive the help they need to stay open during the COVID-19 crisis. By doing this, they hope to build better healthcare access to areas in need.
Build Back Better agenda aims to lower the cost of prescription drugs and maternal healthcare while improving bipartisan infrastructure care. By doing this, they hope to build back healthcare in rural communities that were hardest hit by COVID-19.
New actions to help rural communities during the pandemic:
- Covering costs for healthcare providers’ business: Due to the pandemic, many healthcare providers have had to shut down their practice. If they haven’t shut down their business, they are struggling to keep it open with COVID-19 on the rise. Now, the U.S Department of Health and Human Services will provide $8.5 billion to the American Rescue Plan to compensate healthcare providers who serve rural Medicare, Medicaid, and Children’s health associated with COVID-19.
- Providing better access to vaccines at rural hospitals: The USDA will be using $500 million from the American Rescue Plan to fund the Emergency Rural Health Care Grant Program. This money will help rural hospitals gain better access to telehealth, testing supplies, and vaccines. This will also be used to help improve the number of healthcare providers in small towns.
- Bringing in more healthcare providers: $52 million from the American Rescue Plan will be used to train healthcare workers to fill positions in rural communities, as well as minority communities. The Biden Administration hopes to do this by expanding access to educational programs that will train individuals in areas needed the most during the pandemic. The Department of Veterans Affairs will be working with RIFDI to set up two year training programs to help with educating more individuals in healthcare-related fields to fill rural community positions.
- Access to Pulmonary Rehabilitation Services: The HHS announced its project to develop better access to pulmonary rehabilitation services in Critical Access Hospitals that serve rural communities
- Better telehealth access: The NIH has announced its virtual workshop to teach and improve telehealth technology for healthcare providers. This workshop will also work with mental health providers to provide better technology usage for psychiatric facilities.
Building back better healthcare in rural communities:
- Lowering healthcare costs: The Affordable Care Act has shown to be too expensive for many individuals to afford. Because of this, 2.3 million people have struggled to gain access to health insurance in the United States. The Biden Administration plans to fix this problem by providing affordable health insurance for low to middle class Americans. They also plan to expand Medicaid coverage to more rural areas, as well as invest $3 billion in healthcare disparities.
- Lower prescription drug costs: Most Americans are paying 2-3 times more than they should be for prescription medications. Individuals that are most affected by these costs are diabetics, as well as individuals with long-term disabilities. To help this issue, the Biden Administration plans to have Medicare negotiate drug prices so that consumers do not have to solely rely on pharmaceutical industries for drug costs.
- Keeping more rural hospitals open: There are already very few hospitals available in rural communities. So, when one of two hospitals in a local community are shut down, it can greatly impact the area. The Biden Administration is proposing to keep rural hospitals open by expanding Medicaid. Statistics show that three quarters of rural hospitals are susceptible to shut down due to not having the expansion of Medicaid. Currently, the risk of rural hospital closure is as high as 62% and is affecting a huge number of individuals.
- Improving drinking water in rural areas: Currently, many communities are drinking water from aging water systems. This leads to dirtier drinking water and is most common in rural communities. The new bipartisan infrastructure legislation will now help to modernize drinking water for Americans with poor water filtration.
The Biden Administration has worked in the past to help rural communities fight COVID-19, expand healthcare in rural communities, lower insurance costs, and more. Their plan is to target more of these issues in hopes of building back the economy’s healthcare.