Rosen, Murkowski Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Improve Health Care Access in Rural and Underserved Areas

Today, U.S. Senators Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), both members of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, introduced the Improving Access to Health Care in Rural and Underserved Areas Act, bipartisan legislation that would provide additional support for primary care providers in rural and underserved areas through accredited continuing medical education and clinical support.

“With our current doctor shortage, the health needs of many Nevadans are often unmet due to a lack of access to medical care in their area,” said Senator Rosen. “This bipartisan legislation will assist primary care providers in keeping up with the wide-ranging skills needed to provide medical care in rural and underserved communities. It is critical that we not only attract more providers to these areas, but also offer support for and retain the providers who are already taking care of these communities.  I will continue working to advance policies that benefit the health of all Nevadans.”

“Despite efforts to address ongoing rural health issues, disparities between urban and rural health outcomes continue to grow. Research links lack of access to providers and to specialized care to higher mortality rates and preventable hospitalizations in our rural communities. Unfortunately, for many communities in Alaska, we simply don’t have the healthcare professionals we need,” said Senator Murkowski. “Primary care providers in rural communities are faced with unique demands as they take on the formidable task of providing care for a wide-range of people and conditions. I’ve made it a priority to increase the number of healthcare providers across the state, but it’s also important that we equip our existing workforce with the training and resources they need to meet the specific needs of rural communities. I’m glad to join Senator Rosen in this effort to ensure every American has access to quality care, regardless of where they live.”

"It is essential for primary care clinicians in rural and underserved areas to have access to accredited continuing education that is flexible, supports patient engagement, and is integrated into daily practice. This bill is an important step toward expanding opportunities for clinicians to engage in practice-based, continuing education that is relevant, meaningful, and effective in improving care for patients and communities across the country,” said Graham McMahon, MD, MMSc, President and CEO, Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME).

“Improving access to primary care in rural and underserved areas is an important goal of osteopathic medical education. AACOM thanks Senators Rosen and Murkowski for introducing this important legislation, which would extend lifelong learning opportunities to primary care physicians (PCPs) who serve the underserved. Supporting the continued growth and development of the PCPs treating our nation’s most vulnerable patients is commendable, and Senators Rosen and Murkowski should be applauded for the effort,” said Robert A. Cain, DO, President & Chief Executive Officer, American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine.

BACKGROUND: The bipartisan Improving Access to Health Care in Rural and Underserved Areas Act would create a five-year pilot program that provides a funding opportunity for up to 100 Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) and Rural Health Clinics to boost capacity in specific areas of medical need within their communities, enhancing skills in these areas and expanding access to care. The legislation is supported by the National Rural Health Association, Families USA, the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education, and the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine.