Earlier this month, the Missouri Hospital Association (MHA) traveled to our nation’s capital with executives from Missouri’s rural hospitals to meet with lawmakers, including Senators Roy Blunt, Josh Hawley and Congressman Sam Graves to discuss the critical role of health care for rural patients and economies and the many difficulties facing rural hospitals. Randy Tobler, MD, FACOG, CEO, Scotland County Hospital, was part of the delegation that traveled to Washington DC and shared their perspectives on how federal actions can influence hospitals’ ability to remain essential community institutions while providing the care needed in the communities they serve.
One of the highest priority speaking points with the lawmakers was that quality rural health care saves lives, provides skilled jobs, attracts businesses and reinvests millions back into rural communities. Dr. Tobler specifically addressed the need to give rural hospitals the flexibility to provide the best treatment possible, without onerous government mandates that disrupt innovation and bury physicians in paperwork and generate unnecessary expenses. Dr. Tobler said, “Face-to-face advocacy is essential. It reminds our congressional leaders that the work they do in Washington, D.C., has significant influence on our own work in serving Missouri’s rural communities.”
The delegation of rural hospital officials reported to the legislators that they are concerned about the fragility of many rural hospitals in Missouri and they are interested in policies that not only address the immediate challenges, but add strength and sustainability to the rural health system. The delegation urged lawmakers to support actions to mitigate damage from impending cuts and ever decreasing reimbursement. Dr. Tobler said, “Lawmakers must realize that Missouri and other states with comparatively high uninsured rates continue to experience high uncompensated care costs and it is nearly impossible for safety net hospitals in rural America to have any sustainability and any margin with this broken healthcare system.”
MHA officials and rural hospital executives reassured federal lawmakers that Missouri hospitals stand ready to collaborate with state & federal government and others to find ways to improve the health care delivery system for rural communities.