Health care leaders and other officials April 9 discussed challenges to rural health care access and potential solutions during an event in Washington, D.C. sponsored by the Coalition to Strengthen America's Health Care: Protecting 24/7 Care. The AHA is a founding member of the Coalition, which recently rebranded to reflect its renewed focus to protect and strengthen patients’ access to 24/7 care. 

Today’s event hosted by Punchbowl News involved discussions on a range of topics including access, the importance of telehealth, health care innovations and Medicare underpayment, among others. 

"There are a lot of complex and interlocking issues when it comes to the funding crisis for rural hospitals, and one of them is making sure you know we’re doing everything that we can to make sure that Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements are at least in some way keeping up with the cost of care," said Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn. "And let's just be honest, that's not happening right now." 
 
Workforce recruitment and retention has been a challenge for hospitals across the nation, but even more so in rural areas, said Nancy Howell Agee, CEO of Carilion Clinic and chair of the coalition, during a fireside chat with Punchbowl News Co-founder Anna Palmer. 
 
“I am worried about rural hospitals, because many are very fragile and have closed in the last decade,” Agee said. She discussed technological innovations, such as the rise of telehealth since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the use of robots as a potential solution to improve medicine delivery. 
 
The event also included a panel discussion with Carolyn Leja, chief nursing officer of Corewell Health, Dustin Lipson, president of Primary Children's Hospital, and Mike Espy, former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. 
 
You can watch a video of today’s event here. 

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