Eastern Shore Rural Health visits Richmond and D.C. to call attention to key initiatives affecting health care

March 6, 2024
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Congresswoman Jen Kiggans Eastern Shore Rural Health

Pictured: Eastern Shore Rural Health Advocacy Committee members traveled to D.C. in February. Pictured here are (left to right) Rural Health Board member Ebony Brown, Rep. Jen Kiggans, CEO Jeannette Edwards and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Joan Lingen. Not pictured are Rural Health Chief Operations and Clinical Officer Jennifer Tyler and Director of Communications and Development Amy Bull.

Eastern Shore Rural Health System, Inc. representatives recently traveled to Richmond and Washington D.C. to advocate on behalf of community health centers. Community health centers are community-based and patient-directed organizations that provide affordable, obtainable, high-quality primary health care services.

Rural Health Advocacy Committee members attended a legislative briefing held by the Virginia Community Healthcare Association and met with Virginia Del. Rob Bloxom, Sen. Bill DeSteph and Del. Mark Sickles in Richmond in late January. Advocacy Committee members then attended the National Association of Community Health Center’s Policies & Issues conference in D.C. in mid-February. This conference included visits with Rep. Jen Kiggans, Rep. Abigail Spanberger and key staff members from the offices of Sen. Tim Kaine and Sen. Mark Warner. The Rural Health delegation met with all elected state and federal officials representing Virginia’s Eastern Shore along with U.S. Rep. Spanberger, who is running for Governor of Virginia in 2025, and Del. Sickles, who is a ranking member of Virginia’s Health, Welfare and Institutions Committee and a member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Resources.

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Delegate Rob Bloxom Eastern Shore Rural Health
Eastern Shore Rural Health Advocacy Committee members met with legislators in Richmond in late January. Pictured here are (left to right) Rural Health Board member Jay Davenport, Board President Dr. Betty Bibbins, Digital Marketing Associate Caroline Williams, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Joan Lingen, CEO Jeannette Edwards, Del. Rob Bloxom, Board member Ebony Brown, Director of Communications and Development Amy Bull, Chief Dental Officer Dr. Scott Wolpin and Advocacy Committee member Bob Kerns.

Top Issues Facing Community Health Centers Today

  1. Protecting the 340B program that helps low-income and other vulnerable patients and veterans get more affordable medicines and, in turn, supports safety-net providers in their mission to provide health services and care. “Community Health Centers represent 5% of the 340B program, an insignificant cost burden for big pharmaceutical companies, while these drugs can mean life or death to patients,” said Rural Health CEO Jeannette Edwards. “The 340B program is an essential source of support for us as it allows us to stretch increasingly scarce federal resources and reinvest in patient care.”  Rural Health uses the program to further patient care, increase health education, and lower the incidence of hospitalization among the at-risk patient population. The 340B program does not cost taxpayers money.
  2. Providing state and federal Community Health Center funding at a level that can address the pressing needs of health centers, such as rising costs associated with care delivery, unmet patient needs and workforce challenges. The dollar amount of state appropriations has not increased since 2015 despite a significant increase in health care costs (49% increase in six years). Virginia community health centers’ cost of care is lower than the national average by 18%. Severe workforce shortages, which existed before the pandemic, and growing salary gaps make it difficult for health centers to retain and recruit staff.
  3. Passing federal legislation that includes: $4.4 billion per year for Community Health Centers through December 2025; $350 million per year for the National Health Service Corps through December 2025; and more than doubles the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education program over seven years to $300 million. The National Health Service Corps provides scholarships and loan repayment programs to providers who serve in health professional shortage areas. The Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education Program helps communities grow their health workforce by training physicians and dentists in community-based settings with a focus on rural and underserved communities.
  4. Other federal legislative and regulatory efforts allowing Community Health Centers to continue offering telehealth by allowing reimbursement at a level that makes this financially feasible.
  5. A change in scope that will provide Community Health Centers fair reimbursement for Medicaid patients, with federal matching funds, that may also allow limited retroactive make good payments to Community Health Centers as funding has not increased for several years.

Eastern Shore Rural Health patients interested in joining the Advocacy Committee can email [email protected] or call 757-414-0400, ext. 1122.

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