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Sebelius Hears Rural Health Concerns

Alexandra Wilson Pecci, for HealthLeaders Media, October 19, 2011

Not every rural health leader gets a chance to discuss the issues facing his or her hospital directly with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. But that was the case for more than 15 Pennsylvania health leaders last week when the Hospital & Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania (HAP) hosted a rural health roundtable.

Topics up for discussion included health IT, financial stability, and access to quality care. Participants included CEOs of rural hospitals, including two critical access hospitals, as well as representatives from the Pennsylvania Office of Rural Health, Penn State, and others.

"The secretary took a lot of notes and indicated that these were all valid issues that she would have further conversations about," Carolyn F. Scanlan, HAP president and CEO, tells HealthLeaders Media. Secretary Sebelius spent an hour discussing these issues, which, given her busy schedule, indicates to Scanlan that she has a real interest in supporting and sustaining rural healthcare in this country. "The issues that she raised were issues that we know have been important to her around delivery of quality care," Scanlan says.

I recently spoke with Scanlan and asked her to give an overview of the roundtable conversation with Sebelius.

HLM: Why was the time right for such a discussion?

Scanlan: Rural health is important in Pennsylvania. Twenty-seven percent of the 12.5 million people who live in Pennsylvania live in one of our 48 rural counties. As Congress and the current administration address issues in regard to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and talk about deficit reduction, we need to make sure that healthcare is still available to 27% of Pennsylvania's residents in the rural areas. It is…that kind of vulnerability, particularly of rural hospitals, that is of concern.

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2 comments on "Sebelius Hears Rural Health Concerns"


Robert C. Bowman, M.D. (10/28/2011 at 4:32 AM)
Rural areas are indeed dependent upon school and health spending. Federal designs bypass rural spending in both. The Secretary cannot possibly defend 6 billion in Critical Access Hospital cuts - a move that can only be seen as lack of awareness of what is critical to rural health as in the 1980s Reagan PPS changes. The Secretary cannot address primary care reimbursement that fails to keep up with the rapidly increasing cost of delivering primary care - going up even faster in recent years. Primary care is 40 - 100% of rural workforce. Thirty years of administrations have failed to implement solutions that have worked for over 30 years in Pennsylvania such as the Jefferson PSAP or MN RPAP or other models that graduate what rural areas need - broad scope generalist family practice - the only remaining permanent primary care source in the United States.

jrobb (10/19/2011 at 3:24 PM)
As one of the largest employers in many rural communities, Hospitals are a key economic driver that allows rural America to survice. Without the career paths the hospital provides, youth leaves, property values decline, and the tax base erodes. Hopefully, "small-town" America will not become collateral damage of the PPAC Act.