The U.S. House Agriculture Subcommittee on Specialty Crops, Rural Development and Foreign Agriculture held a hearing yesterday to review the state of health care in rural areas and the role of federal programs in addressing rural health care needs. Congressman Mike McIntyre of North Carolina is Chairman of the Subcommittee.

"As former co-chairman of the Rural Health Care Coalition, I have long been concerned about whether rural people have adequate access to quality health care," said McIntyre. "Despite the numerous federal programs designed to help, the transportation, geographic, and staffing challenges are all too well known by members of this committee who serve rural areas. With limited dollars available for rural health care programs, we must ensure they are used in ways that address the challenges and with sufficient federal coordination."

Rural Americans face unique challenges in getting quality healthcare services-most notably the physical and financial strain of traveling long distances, added Robin Hayes, representative from North Carolina and committee Republican. "That is why it is imperative that we have USDA's many rural development grant and loan programs to help sustain the quality of health care and economic development in rural communities. We must continue to do all we can at the federal level to make sure effective programs and resources are in place to maintain and improve access to quality health care in rural areas for the future."

USDA and the Health and Human Services Department both operate numerous programs that provide funding for rural health-care needs. Representatives of both agencies testified before the subcommittee. A second panel presented testimony about the general state of rural health care and the challenges associated with providing adequate care in rural areas.

Read written testimony provided by the witnesses.

Source: U.S. House Committee on Agriculture