Report includes policy recommendations for expanding access to health care, reducing drug prices in rural communities
WASHINGTON — Health Care for America Now (HCAN) joined with a national collaborative of rural policy and advocacy organizations this week to release the “2021 Rural Policy Action Report,” which outlines specific investments, policy improvements, and regulatory reforms designed to improve health care, the economy, infrastructure and equity for diverse rural communities.
“Rural communities face a wide range of unique barriers to quality health care, from rural hospitals closing or at risk of shutting down, to higher prices for prescription drugs, to difficulties accessing care for people who get their insurance through Medicaid,” said Margarida Jorge, HCAN’s executive director. “As we urge our elected representatives to take action to ensure that everyone in America can get the care they need, we must demand that they recognize and address the specific health care challenges in rural America.”
The report includes several policy recommendations specifically focused on expanding access to health care for America’s rural communities:
- Pass the “Save Rural Hospitals Act,” a bill that would preserve access to rural health care by ensuring fairness in Medicare hospital payments, create opportunities for rural critical care facilities and invest in rural health care services.
- Expand, implement and create rural reforms of Medicaid for poor and working class families. Expanding Medicaid and increasing Medicare reimbursement rates has been identified by many rural health care advocates as the best way to deliver increased quality-of-care in rural communities. Additionally, reforms that give easier access to rural people should also be prioritized such as making family, elder and disability care reimbursable.
- Lower prescription drug costs, including for rural communities, by passing legislation such as The Lower Drug Costs Now Act, which would finally require drug corporations to negotiate fair prices for hundreds of medicines, including insulin, and The Protect American Investment in Drugs (WE PAID) Act, which would ensure that the prices of drugs developed using federally funded research are set at reasonable levels.
“From racial and gender equity to a more fair economy to jobs and infrastructure, this report provides a roadmap for rural policy we hope the Biden Administration and this Congress prioritize in the next two years,” said Shawn Sebastion, Senior Strategist on Rural Policy and Organizing for People’s Action.
“Our policy advocacy and organizing efforts are already paying off,” said Joe Maxwell, president of Family Farm Action. “The American Rescue Act and the Biden American Jobs Plan proposal includes many of our rural priorities. Our political leaders need to build on this momentum, and reverse the bipartisan legacy of rural wealth extraction and deprioritization.”
The report seeks to dispel myths about rural communities and identifies seven broad themes that prevailed throughout the report development process:
1. RURAL AMERICA IS DIVERSE, AND RURAL PEOPLE HAVE EXPERIENCED UNIQUE SYSTEMIC DISCRIMINATION. Rural America is only slightly less diverse than urban America, a gap that continues to close. And Black, Indigenous, Latino, and Asian residents of rural communities have experienced specific systemic racism and discrimination in federal policy and government operations. Policymakers should acknowledge this and take action to help correct these historic and current wrongdoings.
2. RURAL ECONOMIC DRIVERS ARE INCREASINGLY EXTRACTIVE AND EXPLOITIVE. Federal and state policies have allowed corporations with concentrated power and political influence to extract wealth and resources, drive small businesses and family farmers out of business, and exploit vulnerable workers. We must hold corporate power and influence to account, rein in monopolistic behavior, and create a level playing field for rural workers, farmers, small businesses, and cooperatives.
3. GOVERNMENT INVESTMENT IS DESPERATELY NEEDED. We must substantially increase federal grants and capital to pay for infrastructure, public services, job creation, housing, small business development, conservation of natural resources, and health care improvements. In fact, infrastructure is just as important for the health of rural communities as it is for urban spaces.
4. MANY RURAL COMMUNITY GOVERNMENTS LACK ESSENTIAL CIVIC CAPACITY. In addition to funding for physical infrastructure, rural communities need funding for human capital, technical assistance and staffing to develop and procure rural resources through grants, loans and other means.
5. POLICYMAKERS OFTEN DO NOT PRIORITIZE RURAL LIVABILITY. MANY PEOPLE WANT TO STAY IN RURAL COMMUNITIES OR RETURN TO THEM. Unfortunately, there is a lack of policy to promote basic livability features, including high-speed internet, affordable housing, access to high-quality healthcare, pre-k, K-12, vocational and higher education, child care, and arts and culture. Further, our government – across parties – often promotes extractive and polluting industries that make communities less livable in the name of economic growth.
6. AN EFFECTIVE RURAL AGENDA AVOIDS ADDRESSING ISSUES AS SILOS.Integration of policy across issue areas is necessary to create thriving rural communities. Rural economic vitality cannot be separated from essential services like healthcare and education or the management of resources like public lands. Effective rural policy focuses on the community as a whole.
7. MANY POLICIES HAVE A SIMILAR DETRIMENTAL IMPACT ON URBAN AND RURAL COMMUNITIES. Urban and rural communities alike face crumbling infrastructure from decades of government deprioritization, a lack of choices due to the monopolization of our markets, and challenges accessing affordable health care or jobs with good pay and benefits. The best way to address the perceived “rural-urban divide” is by building a coalition of rural and urban people united around an agenda that puts the government to work revitalizing all communities and improving people’s lives.
The Rural Policy Action Report was Co-Hosted by the Rural Democracy Initiative, Family Farm Action, and RuralOrganizing.org, and sponsored by Rural Democracy Initiative.
About Health Care for America Now (HCAN)
Health Care for America Now (HCAN) is a grassroots coalition of state and national groups that led the fight to pass the landmark Affordable Care Act (ACA). Healthcare Over Wealthcare is a campaign of Health Care for America Now that advocates for prioritizing investments in equitable, affordable health care for everyone over tax breaks for the rich and corporations.Learn more at www.healthcareforamericanow.
About Rural Democracy Initiative
Rural Democracy Initiative invests in civic and political change in small towns and rural communities. Building power in these communities is essential if we’re to establish an enduring progressive, multi-racial national majority, and implement the policies required for rural and small town communities to have vibrant, thriving futures.
About Family Farm Action
Family Farm Action is a coalition of farmers, workers, local businesses, and organizations building the “political muscle” to take on abusive corporate monopoly power.
We believe that communities, causes, and candidates must leverage these relationships in order to organize and mobilize rural communities toward enduring and sustainable change. With smart communications and strategic distributive organizing, we will empower rural progressives and develop, pass, and implement policy platforms needed to rebuild small towns across America.