Doug Jones introduces bill to improve rural health care

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Alabama Sen. Doug Jones introduced his first piece of legislation on Tuesday, aimed at improving communications and coordination between federal agencies and health care stakeholders.

The bill known as the Rural Health Liaison Act, would create the position of rural health liaison within the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA.) According to Jones, the liaison would:

  • Consult with the Department of HHS on rural health issues and improve communication with all federal agencies
  • Provide expertise on rural health care issues
  • Lead and coordinate strategic planning on rural health activities within the USDA
  • Advocate on behalf of the health care and relevant infrastructure needs in rural areas
  • Provide updates on rural grant opportunities and other programs to stakeholders
  • Provide technical assistance and guidance on rural health to the USDA extension and county offices

Jones believes the legislation will streamline the government, and make it more efficient, ensuring rural hospitals in Alabama have access to the resources they need to provide affordable health care in their communities.

“Like many states with large rural communities, Alabama faces unique challenges when it comes to providing access to health care for all of our residents,” said Jones. “I’m proud that the first bill I’m introducing as a lead sponsor will help address an issue that affects so many people in my state and across rural America. By establishing a rural health liaison at USDA, we can better coordinate federal resources and expand health care access to Americans who have for too long struggled to receive quality, affordable care in their own communities.”

Since 2010, 80 rural hospitals in the nation have closed and 673 are at risk of closing, twelve of those hospital closures took place in Alabama. Resulting in a loss of over 6,000 jobs, and over $713 million in Alabama GDP in the last ten years.

“As much as anything, going around the state over the last 12 months, health care has been a driving issue for people in Alabama from one end of the state to the other, and particularly rural health care,” Jones told AL.com. “The health care delivery in rural parts of Alabama are critical, and making sure that people have access to affordable health care is a lifeblood in a number of communities.”

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