WASHINGTON, DC—Today, House Ways and Means Committee Republican Leader Kevin Brady (R-TX), Chairman Richard E. Neal (D-MA), and the co-chairs of the Committee’s Rural and Underserved Communities Health Task Force’s (Task Force)— Congressman Brad Wenstrup (R-OH), Congressman Jodey Arrington (R-TX), Congresswoman Terri A. Sewell (D-AL), and Ways and Means Worker and Family Support Subcommittee Chairman Danny K. Davis (D-IL)— released a summary of responses to the Task Force’s November 2019 request for information (RFI). The Task Force was created in July 2019 to better understand the health and social inequities facing those who live in rural and underserved areas and work toward policies that would eliminate these inequities and strengthen the American health care system for them.
Now, amidst a pandemic that has highlighted the need to provide greater support for rural and underserved communities, the Task Force has summarized nearly 200 RFI responses from national, regional and local experts. Overall, the responses found that those living in underserved areas tend to be older, more likely to live below the federal poverty line, and disproportionately exposed to risks that make them more prone to chronic health conditions. Additionally, the populations in these underserved communities are more likely to be Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC), and many of these communities are also medically underserved areas that deal with challenges ranging from a lack of access to affordable coverage to massive health system deficiencies.
“We established the Rural and Underserved Communities Health Task Force because in the wealthiest nation in the world, we must ensure that all Americans, including the most vulnerable, are able to access high-quality, affordable health care,” Rep. Brady and Chairman Neal said. “The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated already dire conditions for millions living in rural and underserved areas who lack access to the care they need. We must work together on a bipartisan basis to address these inequities in our society, and I applaud the Task Force’s Co-Chairs for their work in bringing us one step closer to delivering the health care Americans in rural and underserved areas deserve.”
Based on the responses, the Task Force identified four policy areas of focus moving forward:
- Addressing direct social determinants of health;
- Enacting payment system reforms;
- Strengthening technology and infrastructure; and,
- Reinforcing our workforce.
Following their analysis of the Task Force’s RFI responses, Neal, Brady, and the Task Force’s Co-Chairs have requested the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) update its 2012 report entitled “Serving rural Medicare beneficiaries” to help deepen the Task Force’s knowledge on health inequities in the Medicare program.
Specifically, the members requested that MedPAC:
- Add medically underserved areas as a distinct geographic category to any applicable analysis;
- Add dually eligible Medicare beneficiaries and beneficiaries with multiple chronic conditions to any applicable analysis; and,
- Examine factors and trends that may have impacted these communities since the 2012 report, such as expanded use of telemedicine and provider consolidation.
The full text of the letter to MedPAC can be found HERE.
The full summary of RFI responses can be found HERE.
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