(Feb. 19, 2021) – Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, policymakers and stakeholders have repeatedly discussed the importance of accessible, quality health care. Kansas hospitals and health care providers have a long history of exploring and leveraging innovative approaches to bring access to all Kansans including recent strategies to increase usage of telemedicine and explore new models of care.
Regardless of where you reside in the state, the availability of health care influences the health and economic wellbeing of your community. You may recall earlier this year the Kansas Hospital Association released its annual economic impact report, which emphasized how a strong health care system attracts businesses, retains retirees and creates jobs. It’s understood Kansas' health care system is interdependent among urban and rural providers. This collaboration, demonstrated and observed frequently during the COVID-19 pandemic, is essential. While each type of provider plays a crucial role in making the Kansas health care system function, there is an increased focus on rural health care over the past couple of weeks as stakeholders on the state and national level have engaged in discussions regarding its importance and sustainability.
The Kansas Legislature dedicated a portion of its attention this week to the importance of rural health care. Both legislative chambers scheduled hearings in their respective health committees on the Rural Emergency Hospital legislation (House Bill 2261 and Senate Bill 175). Besides KHA and its membership, the level of support was wide-ranging and consisted of representatives from the Kansas Medical Society, Kansas Farm Bureau, Kansas Bankers Association, Kansas Association of Counties and the League of Municipalities. Conferees stressed the need for communities to have options as they consider the most appropriate health care system for their community. The reasons offered during the hearing were so compelling, the House Health and Human Services Committee took the unusual step to immediately pass this bill out of their committee once the formal hearing concluded. This is a great first step to getting this important legislation passed. The legislative hearings weren't the only discussion on rural health care in the Kansas statehouse. Members of the Kansas Rural Caucus invited KHA to share thoughts on the status of rural health care and the potential opportunities and barriers that exist. Kudos to the Kansas Legislature for understanding the value of a viable, accessible health care system and its importance to the success of the state.
These conversations regarding rural health care, and health care in general, play an important role in ensuring that all Kansans have the ability to obtain needed health care services. Let's hope the momentum created to support health care continues so needed support can be provided.