Reps. Diana Harshbarger and Jill Tokuda Launch Congressional Bipartisan Rural Health Caucus

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, Representatives Diana Harshbarger (R-TN) and Jill Tokuda (D-HI), along with the National Rural Health Association, announced the launch of the Congressional Bipartisan Rural Health Caucus.

More than 46 million Americans, or 15 percent of the U.S. population, live in rural areas. Compared with their urban counterparts, rural Americans experience lower life expectancy and poorer health status. In general, residents in rural areas face barriers to accessing health care due to the limited number of providers, especially those providing specialized care, and inadequate health insurance. Rural residents may also lack access to reliable transportation and deal with exposure to environmental and occupational hazards. These disparities highlight the need for greater attention and resources aimed at improving health care and outcomes in rural areas.

The Congressional Bipartisan Rural Health Caucus will provide a forum for Members of Congress to advocate for legislation and action that help increase access to quality, affordable health care and mental health services for all rural Americans.

In addition to supporting legislation, the Caucus will host briefings and events designed to educate and inform Members of Congress and the public about the most pressing health care needs in rural areas and potential policy solutions, including stemming hospital closures, ensuring fair and adequate reimbursement rates, strengthening the health workforce, reducing health inequities, expanding telehealth access, and other policies that enhance the quality and efficiency of health care services in rural areas. 

These events will allow Members to interact with patients, providers, and health advocates to hear the stories of the challenges and opportunities with rural health care delivery in the U.S.

“Having served as a pharmacist in East Tennessee for over 30 years, I understand the unique health care challenges faced by our rural communities each and every day,” said Congresswoman Diana Harshbarger. “Rural health care providers throughout the country, especially those in East Tennessee, grapple with workforce shortages, supply scarcities, reimbursement challenges, and difficulties ensuring their patients receive the care they need. I am proud to join Representative Jill Tokuda in re-launching the Rural Health Caucus to place the needs of patients and their providers throughout rural America at the forefront of our healthcare policy-making process and deliver meaningful results to patients across the country.” 

“As the representative of one of the most rural and remote districts in the country, I have seen firsthand just how difficult it can be for individuals and families to access basic primary care and mental health services. Nationwide, rural health care providers are struggling more than ever to keep their doors open and sustain services for their communities,” said Rep. Tokuda. “That’s why I am proud to re-launch the Bipartisan Rural Health Caucus with Rep. Diana Harshbarger. Together, we are looking beyond the partisan gridlock in Congress to tackle the rural health care crisis and ensure equitable access to health care for patients in all areas of our country.”

“The National Rural Health Association (NRHA) applauds Representatives Tokuda and Harshbarger for their efforts to stand up the Rural Health Caucus. The Caucus is an opportunity to shed light on critical issues facing many rural providers and patients. NRHA looks forward to working closely with the Rural Health Caucus and moving rural health priorities forward,” said Alan Morgan, Chief Executive Officer of the National Rural Health Association.

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