Better Rural Health Care Could Be Coming to Alabama
Rural health care was a top priority of his Senate campaign, and on Tuesday, Sen. Doug Jones, D-Ala., announced that he is a lead sponsor of a Senate bill that would create a rural health care liaison to improve communication and streamline efficiencies between federal agencies.
The Rural Health Liaison Act is the first bill where Jones is a lead sponsor and the first legislation that originated out of his office.
“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 Tuesday following a speech on the Senate floor where he explained the bill and criticized state leaders for not accepting Medicaid expansion. “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.”
The liaison would work out of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and advocate for rural health care and coordinate with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
“We need someone to take charge in being the clearinghouse and make things more efficient … to make sure we stem that tide” of declining rural health care services, Jones said, referring to the 12 recent hospital closings in rural Alabama counties. “It will help streamline government and make government more efficient.”
Jones pointed out that rural areas are more dependent on Medicaid and Medicare than big hospitals in areas like Birmingham. And when such hospitals close, Jones said, it doesn’t just affect Medicaid recipients.
Alabama’s junior senator said the hope is that his legislation, which is also being sponsored by Sens. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., and Tina Smith, D-Minn., will become part of the farm bill being crafted by the Senate Agriculture Committee.