Lankford Continues to Stand Up for Rural Access to Quality Health Care in Oklahoma
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WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today participated in a Senate Finance Committee hearing entitled, “Consolidation and Corporate Ownership in Health Care: Trends and Impacts on Access, Quality, and Costs,” in which he pressed the witness panel about issues with rural access to health services, health care facility consolidation, and regulatory structures that prevent medical professionals from providing care in their communities. Lankford continues to make sure that the federal government is not incentivizing hospital consolidation and therefore pushing certain health services into urban areas only and increasing the cost of care. Oklahomans deserve reasonable access to the health care services they want and need, whether they are a retiree on a ranch in Kingfisher, Oklahoma, or a school teacher in Hollis, Oklahoma.
Lankford remains a strong advocate for addressing health care access deficiencies in rural Oklahoma and around the nation. As he mentioned in the hearing, Lankford introduced his Rural Hospital Closure Relief Act, which would support financially vulnerable rural hospitals facing risk of closure. Lankford announced a huge win late last year for rural hospital access in Oklahoma and around the nation after the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced its Rural Emergency Hospital (REH) rule. The rule, among other things, redefined a “primary” road for purposes of establishing the distance a hospital must be from another hospital to receive CMS’ Critical Access Hospital (CAH) designation.
Witnesses on the panel included Zack Cooper, Ph.D, Associate Professor of Public Health and Associate Professor of Economics at Yale University; R. Shawn Martin, Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Officer at the American Academy of Family Physicians; Karen Joynt Maddox, MD, MPH, Associate Professor of Medicine at Washington University; Chris Thomas, FACHE, President and Chief Executive Officer of Community Hospital in Grand Junction, CO; and Caroline Pearson, Executive Director, Peterson Center on Healthcare in New York, NY.
Lankford: It is interesting, my state in Oklahoma, we have 4 million people, 2 million of those live in urban areas, 2 million of those live in rural areas. And for our rural hospitals, some consolidation of administrative functions have been beneficial actually, to have back office somewhere else and so they can focus on patient care in a very small community. I’ve also seen some other areas where a management company comes in, takes over a rural hospital, runs it, and then drops it. And it’s had major consequences in my state as well. So I’ve seen both sides of this and know that we’ve got to have some oversight in the process on this, so that we don’t have rural hospitals especially that face consolidation and then just be abandoned at the end of the day as well.