Bipartisan Bill Introduced To Expand Urgent Health Care Access For Rural Citizens

Photo: Tennessee State Route 68 passing through the community of Grandview in Rhea County, Tennessee, United States. The stop sign on the left marks TN68’s intersection with Hemlock Drive.

Photo Credit: Brian Stansberry / CC 

Published July 26, 2021

The Tennessee Conservative Staff –

Washington D.C. – U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn re-introduced the Rural Health Innovation Act along with Senator John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.) to incentivize communities to prioritize urgent care needs. 

Tennessee Capitol Building in Nashville

Blackburn said, “Rural Tennessee communities know all too well that when hospitals close, they will be left without medical care when emergencies arise.  Filling the rural health care gap must be a priority. With the support of Senator Hickenlooper, the Rural Health Innovation Act will employ a collaborative federal, state, and local approach to provide urgent care solutions for rural areas in the Volunteer State and across America.” 

The Rural Health Innovation Act of 2021 enables transformation in rural America by establishing grants so that rural providers such as Rural Health Clinics and Federally Qualified Health Centers can expand provision of emergency health services. 

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Senator Hickenlooper said, “Health clinics and public health departments function as lifelines in rural communities. These providers regularly make the difference between life and death. We need to support them and give them the resources they need to improve health outcomes in our rural areas.” 

Alan Morgan, Chief Executive Officer of the National Rural Health Association, states that emergency services are vital to rural communities and grants to help rural providers purchase equipment and pay essential staff will enhance health outcomes in our most rural communities. 

The Rural Health Innovation Act: 

  • Creates two 5-year grant programs, administered by the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Community-Based Division. 
  • One grant program would help establish FQHCs and RHCs capable of meeting the community’s urgent care and triage needs; Grants will be limited to $500,000 for existing facilities and $750,000 for startup facilities. 
  • The other grant program would expand rural health departments to meet urgent care and triage needs; Grants will be limited to $500,000. Communities must have an existing health department with a government-funded building, some nursing staff, and medical equipment. 
  • Communities must be rural and be located at least thirty minutes from the nearest emergency department, using the speed limit on the most direct route from the proposed site to the nearest emergency department or be inaccessible by road. 
  • Communities that have lost a hospital in the last seven years will have priority. 
  • Read the full bill text HERE.
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