Hagedorn, Torres Small Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Secure Funding for Rural Health Providers During the COVID-19 Pandemic
WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Representatives Xochitl Torres Small (D-NM) and Jim Hagedorn (R-MN) introduced the bipartisan Save Our Rural Health Providers Act to ensure COVID-19 relief funding is dedicated to supporting rural healthcare providers across the country. The bill’s companion has been introduced by U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).
The bill comes on the heels of Torres Small and Hagedorn’s earlier efforts -- leading 32 colleagues in a bipartisan letter urging Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar to allocate at least 20 percent of the $75 billion for health providers in the recent relief package, the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, to rural areas.
Specifically, this bill establishes the following guidelines:
- A 20 percent Rural Benchmark in the Provider Relief Fund
- Priority should be granted to facilities that have been significantly affected by COVID-19 preparation
- Priority should be granted for facilities that provide care for a disproportionally high percentage of Medicare and Medicaid patients
- Priority should be granted for facilities that provide care for populations with above average senior populations or co-morbidities that are particularly vulnerable to complications from COVID-19 and for populations in areas:
- With limited access to health infrastructure;
- With high uninsured patients.
"Medical providers and our incredible healthcare professionals have made enormous sacrifices, financial and otherwise, to prepare for a possible COVID-19 surge. In southern Minnesota, we are fortunate to have so many fine rural hospitals. For many southern Minnesota cities, the local hospital not only delivers timely, quality medical care, but is the largest employer and drives the economy. That’s why passage of our legislation is so critically important. We must continue to fight and defend the interests of our rural residents and communities,” said Representative Hagedorn.
"Rural hospitals across southern New Mexico are simultaneously battling COVID-19 while fighting to keep their doors open. Often, these rural healthcare providers across New Mexico and America the only point of care for hundreds of miles, and closing their doors would mean thousands would be forced to travel even further to access critical care during these unprecedented times. It’s time we get these rural hospitals the support they need to continue to serve their communities," said Representative Torres Small. "Our bipartisan, bicameral legislation would direct at least 20 percent of COVID-19 relief funding to rural providers across the county. As some rural hospitals brace for what is yet to come, this legislation takes an important step to ensure providers are able to provide high-quality care and keep their doors open."
"The Save Our Rural Health Providers Act is a fitting name because this bill would do exactly that. Twelve rural hospitals have already closed this year, and hundreds more are vulnerable to closure. This Act will provide the lifeline needed for rural providers as they struggle to keep doors open during this pandemic,” said Alan Morgan, CEO of the National Rural Health Association.
The Save Our Rural Health Providers Act would require HHS to set-aside at least 20 percent of the Provider Relief Fund for rural health providers. Since the Provider Relief Fund still has roughly $100 billion unobligated funds, at least $20 billion would be allocated to rural providers, like the ones in southern Minnesota. The legislation also clarifies that all Critical Access Hospitals, Rural Health Clinics, and dual eligible Rural Referral Centers and Sole Community Hospitals should be considered rural.
Jim Hagedorn was elected in 2018 to represent Minnesota’s First District in the U.S. House of Representatives. He grew up on his family’s grain and livestock farm near Truman. Jim’s father, former U.S. Congressman Tom Hagedorn (MN-02), grandfather, and great-grandfather were all southern Minnesota farmers. Jim currently resides in the rural farming community of Blue Earth. Hagedorn brings policy experience to Capitol Hill from time spent as a congressional aide to former U.S. Congressman Arlan Stangeland (MN-07) and a congressional relations officer for two non-partisan U.S. Department of the Treasury agencies. Hagedorn serves on the House Committees on Agriculture and Small Business to promote farming, Main Street enterprises and southern Minnesota’s way of life.