Joyce, Lee Introduce Bill to Improve Rural Health Care

Apr 05, 2022
Health Care

WASHINGTON, DC – This week, Congressman Dave Joyce (OH-14) introduced the Improving Access to Health Care in Rural and Underserved Areas Act alongside Congresswoman Susie Lee (NV-03) to provide additional support for primary care providers in medically disadvantaged communities. A Co-Chair of the Congressional Nursing Caucus, Joyce has long worked to address America’s physician and nursing shortage and improve access to quality health care in rural areas.

“All Americans should be able to receive the medical care they need, no matter where they live,” said Rep. Joyce. “Unfortunately, those who live in rural communities often lack access to that care due to a shortage of qualified medical professionals. That’s why I’m proud to introduce the Improving Access to Health Care in Rural and Underserved Areas Act with Congresswoman Lee. Where you live should not be a barrier to receiving quality health care. Our bipartisan bill will support health centers, clinics and other providers in rural areas across the country, and ensure the Americans they serve have access to the qualified medical professionals that can deliver care reflective of their communities’ health needs.”

“Nevada, like much of the country, is facing a dire doctor shortage,” said Rep. Lee. “This means that many families go without the care they need due to the lack of specialists in their area. In fact, all 17 counties in Nevada have some type of Health Professional Shortage Area designation because of our low ratio of providers to population. That’s why I’m proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation to provide additional support for primary care providers in rural and underserved areas through accredited continuing medical education and peer-to-peer clinical support.”

Over 83 million Americans live in federally designated Health Professional Shortage Areas, which are identified based on population-to-provider ratios, travel time to care, and poverty rates. In Ohio, there are currently 158 designated HPSAs that serve over 1.7 million Buckeyes. Tragically, research has linked lack of access to providers and specialized care in rural and underserved communities to higher mortality rates and preventable hospitalizations.

Joyce and Lee’s legislation aims to tackle this lack of access to medical care by providing additional support for primary care providers in rural and underserved areas through accredited continuing medical education (CME) and peer-to-peer clinical support. Specifically, the bill would create and authorize $20 million for a five-year pilot program to provide grants for up to 100 Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) and Rural Health Clinics to:

  • bolster educational activities which serve to maintain, develop, or expand the knowledge, skills, and professional performance that a physician uses to provide care for patients; and
  • provide peer-to-peer training to primary care providers in rural and underserved FQHCs and Rural Health Centers from visiting board-certified specialists and other licensed medical professionals with teaching experience, high-volume patient experience, or other relevant experience.

“At Signature Health, we see firsthand how patients living in rural and underserved areas have unique and complex care needs and the impact of provider shortages,” said Jonathan Lee, CEO of Signature Health, a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) with clinics in Northeast Ohio, including in rural Ashtabula County. “The leadership of Representatives Joyce and Lee in introducing ‘The Improving Access to Health Care in Rural and Underserved Areas Act’ will help our dedicated clinicians grow and thrive in ways specific to supporting the patient population we passionately serve. We salute their leadership and strongly support this act. Amidst a challenging health care workforce environment, initiatives like this that invest in provider development benefit patients, the community and our pipeline of caregivers.” 

“The National Rural Health Association (NRHA) applauds Representatives Lee and Joyce for introducing the Improving Access to Health Care in Rural and Underserved Areas Act,” said Alan Morgan, Chief Executive Officer of NRHA. “This important legislation will provide Federally Qualified Health Centers and rural health clinics serving rural communities with additional support to ensure they have the tools needed to support the health care needs of their communities. As the nation rebounds from COVID-19, innovative pilot programs like this are necessary to bolster our public health infrastructure to ensure providers can meet the needs of their communities.”

“On behalf of Community Health Centers and the 29 million patients they serve, I thank Representatives Susie Lee and Dave Joyce for their leadership by introducing the Improving Access to Health Care in Rural and Underserved Areas Act,” said Rachel Gonzales-Hanson, Interim President and CEO of the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC). “COVID-19 has only worsened the severe provider shortage that health centers face daily. This bill will increase clinician capacity, training, and retention for health centers to better serve their patients in primary care and specialty care, including behavioral health settings. Passage of this bill is needed to expand access to high quality and comprehensive care for our rural, remote, and hard to reach health center patients.”

“Primary care clinicians in rural and underserved areas deserve access to accredited continuing education that reflects the needs of their patients,” said Graham McMahon, MD, MMSc, President and CEO, Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME). “Continuing education helps physicians and healthcare teams learn and stay current with best practices to deliver the care their patients deserve and expect. The bill introduced by Representatives Susie Lee and Dave Joyce would make an important contribution to linking clinicians with practice-based, relevant, and effective accredited continuing education that is meaningful in improving care for patients and communities across the country.”

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