Congressional Corner: Importance of Rural Hospitals Should Not be Overlooked

Congressional Corner: Importance of Rural Hospitals Should Not be Overlooked

By Representative Bill Shuster (PA-9)

I have represented the hundreds of small communities that make up the 9th Congressional district in Southwestern Pennsylvania since 2001. When I'm traveling the district's sprawling 12 county region meeting with constituents, one of the most common issues that I talk to seniors about is the need for access to quality healthcare. While many in our district have convenient access to some of the major hospitals in the region, many others reside in rural areas that rely on our smaller hospitals for care.

The 9th District is home to several designated Critical Access Hospitals and Sole Community Hospitals, designed to fill that gap and provide rural areas with access to quality care. These facilities are often times the pillar of their community, providing jobs and top-notch care.

In order to ensure that these rural hospitals, which provide care for more than 60 million Americans nationwide, are able to continue to operate I have consistently worked to support appropriate levels of federal and state funding and supportive policies. I have strongly opposed efforts by the Obama administration to make it more difficult for them to keep their doors open. Without these hospitals seniors would be forced to travel long distances to receive care. I have sent numerous letters to the Department of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, the House Budget Committee, and House leadership explaining how important it is that Congress and the executive branch protect funding and support for rural hospitals. I also supported legislative proposals that protect these rural designations, which are essential to keep these facilities open. I've worked closely in the 9th District with local hospitals like Tyrone and Somerset to acquire crucial grant funding to expand services.

While the president's broken healthcare law continues to create challenges for seniors, I am confident that we can think outside the box to improve access to quality care. In addition to supporting rural hospitals I have been vocal on the importance of home health, which millions of seniors rely on. I've also worked on efforts to improve tele-health services. This type of care allows our rural hospitals to work virtually with specialized medical professionals across the country, which reduces costs and allows patients to reach high quality physicians to whom they otherwise would not have access.

The importance and benefits that people living far distances away from major hospitals receive from rural care providers should not be taken for granted. They are facing new challenges from the Obama administration almost daily but they remain resilient. I assure you that I'll not only protect quality access to care for seniors living in rural areas, but I'll continue working to improve and expand it.