July 19, 2023

Kilmer Introduces Bipartisan Legislation to Protect and Strengthen Rural Hospitals

Bipartisan Rural Hospital Technical Assistance Program Act Will Protect Health Care Access for Rural Washingtonians

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Representatives Derek Kilmer (WA-06) and Ronny Jackson (TX-13) announced the introduction of the bipartisan Rural Hospital Technical Assistance Program Act, legislation to protect and strengthen rural hospitals.

The Rural Hospital Technical Assistance Program Act makes permanent an existing program at the U.S. Department of Agriculture that provides technical assistance for rural hospitals to help prevent closures, strengthen essential healthcare services in rural communities, and improve financial and operational performance.

“Having been born and raised on the Olympic Peninsula, I grew up a long way from the most well-equipped hospitals in Seattle. But no matter who you are or where you’re from, you ought to be able to find quality health care close to home,” said Rep. Kilmer. “It’s time for Congress to step up and make sure folks in rural America can get medical help without traveling far from home and without going broke. The bipartisan Rural Hospital Technical Assistance Program Act is about keeping facilities like Olympic Medical Center and Jefferson Healthcare and others up and running. And it’s about improving care in rural America where the need is greatest.”

“From my career as a physician and my experience growing up in West Texas, I understand the importance of rural health care, said Rep. Jackson. While rural America faces many challenges, health care must be immediately addressed. The rural hospital closure crisis continues to intensify with more than 500 rural hospitals nationwide vulnerable to closures soon, and Texas’ Thirteenth Congressional District is home to more rural hospitals than any other district in the state. My district has seen first-hand the challenges faced by rural hospitals, with Bowie Hospital closing in 2020 and Chillicothe Hospital closing in 2019. Programs like the one created by the Rural Hospital Technical Assistance Program Act are vital to ensuring rural America continues to have access to quality care, which is why I am proud to introduce this legislation along with Congressman Kilmer to help prevent rural hospitals from shutting their doors and ensure that rural communities have access to the care they need.”

The Rural Hospital Technical Assistance Program Act is endorsed by the Alliance of Safety-Net Hospitals, American Hospital Association, National Association of Rural Health Clinics, National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health, National Rural Health Association, Texas Hospital Association, Texas Organization of Rural & Community Hospitals, Washington State Hospital Association, and Wyoming Hospital Association.

“The Alliance of Safety-Net Hospitals is pleased to support the Rural Hospital Technical Assistance Program Act,” said Ellen Kugler, Director, Alliance of Safety-Net Hospitals. Rural hospitals across the country need more support if they are to continue to serve their communities. We appreciate Rep. Kilmer’s and Rep. Jackson’s recognition of and support for these vital safety-net hospitals.”

“On behalf of America’s hospitals and health care systems, we appreciate Reps. Kilmer and Jackson’s leadership to protect and strengthen rural hospitals,” said Lisa Kidder Hrobsky, Senior Vice President for Advocacy and Political Affairs. “The Rural Hospital Technical Assistance Program Act will allow additional hospitals to benefit from this USDA program by addressing some of their financial and operational concerns so they can continue to provide vital services to patients in rural areas.”

“The National Association of Rural Health Clinics (NARHC) thanks Representative Kilmer for the ways he continues to champion the unique needs of rural providers in WA-06 and across the country,” said Sarah Hohman, Director of Government Affairs, National Association of Rural Health Clinics. “Codifying the USDA Rural Hospital Technical Assistance Program and naming Rural Health Clinics as eligible entities will increase access to important supports for our safety net providers.”

“The National Rural Health Association (NRHA) applauds Representatives Kilmer (D-WA) and Jackson (R-TX) for their introduction of the Rural Hospital Technical Assistance Program Act to codify the existing USDA pilot program that provides technical assistance to rural hospitals,” said Alan Morgan, CEO, National Rural Health Association. “This legislation will help prevent hospital closures, improve financial and operations performance for facilities receiving Rural Development funds, and strengthen essential healthcare services in rural communities. NRHA looks forward to working with Congress to keep hospital doors open and continue providing care for the 60 million residents living in rural America.”

“WSHA strongly supports and appreciates Rep. Kilmer’s efforts to support rural hospitals,” said Jacqueline Barton True, Vice President, Advocacy and Rural Health, Washington State Hospital Association. “Residents in rural communities tend to be older and have lower incomes than their urban counterparts. Many also suffer from complex health needs. This places extra stress on rural hospitals, and many struggle to keep their doors open. This bill provides much needed support for physical infrastructure and is a big step forward to equalizing access to health care services, regardless of where an individual resides.”

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