As part of the Committee’s work on expanding access to health care for more Americans, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jason Smith (MO-08) released an open letter to the health care community today requesting comments and input on solutions, with a focus on bold, new proposals, that can help turn the tide against the very real disparities in access to care that exist for millions of Americans – particularly those in rural and underserved communities.
“Patients across America are facing increasing health care facility closures, travel distances, and wait times, driven by a shrinking health care workforce, health care consolidation, and patchwork financing models,” writes Ways and Means Chairman Smith. “This access challenge is uniquely difficult for patients and families living in rural and underserved areas in America… The Committee will identify how geographic barriers, misaligned Medicare payment incentives, and consolidation may be driving facility closures and workforce shortages – hurting overall access to health care – while innovative care models and technology are improving such care. The Committee is seeking broad stakeholder input on these policy areas, with an emphasis on solutions to reshape our nation’s health care system and bring new access to care in rural and underserved areas. Simply extending the broken status quo is insufficient. Instead, the Committee will explore bold new solutions to incentivize access to care and improve our nation’s health for future generations.”
As part of the public open letter request for information, Chairman Smith highlights five key areas of interest:
- Payment disparities between different geographic areas.
- The long-term financial health of providers and facilities.
- Payments for identical care provided in varying sites of service.
- Bringing new professionals into the health care workforce.
- Innovative care models and technology to improve patient outcomes.
Key Facts on Disparities in Access to Health Care:
- Patients living in rural America must travel twice as far to access basic primary care services, compared with their urban counterparts.
- Independent community pharmacies have decreased in number by more than 16 percent in the last 20 years.
- As many as 178 rural hospitals closed between 2005 and 2022, and more than 600 are at risk of closure.
- Health care work force shortages are projected to exceed 100,000 physicians and one million nurses.
Read the full letter here.