BPC, UnityPoint Host Rural Workforce Discussion

photo credit: UnityPoint Health

This week, the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) – a Washington D.C. think tank founded by several prominent former U.S. Senators – and UnityPoint hosted a multidisciplinary discussion on rural workforce shortages. BPC recently formed a Rural Health Task Force charged with developing recommendations to address rural access to care. Iowa U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley hosted Tuesday’s meeting, which was part of a coordinated day of activities to allow task force members to hear directly from stakeholders and elected officials as they seek to develop their recommendations. In addition to the stakeholder meeting and panel discussion, task force members met with Governor Reynolds, as well as the medical staff and administrative leadership at the Knoxville Hospital and Clinics. IMS leadership participated in both the Knoxville visit and the stakeholder discussion in Des Moines.

Tuesday’s discussions centered around several common themes of rural access to care. These included the need for a greater physician workforce serving rural communities, utilizing technology to expand access to care, and making targeted investments to help rural practices and hospitals transition to new models of care delivery. In his remarks, Senator Grassley noted the important role policy measures like the temporary 1.0 Physician Work GPCI floor play in ensuring that physician’s Medicare payment rates are not penalized simply because a physician is practicing in a rural area. This solutions-oriented event looked at the role that federal measures like the Conrad 30 program play in helping to expedite physician recruitment to rural communities. New federal legislation, which is supported by IMS, would reauthorize and expand this program that waives the J-1 VISA waiting period for international physicians who have completed a U.S. residency program and agree to practice in an underserved area.

Addressing Iowa’s physician workforce shortage is a top priority for IMS. The IMS Committee on Physician Workforce has spent the past several months exploring additional policy measures that might help address the problem. We applaud UnityPoint and the Bipartisan Policy Center for helping to bring greater attention to this problem and for convening stakeholders to help generate additional ideas for solutions. A recording of Tuesday’s Des Moines meeting is available on the BPC Website

The BPC Rural Health Task Force is seeking public comments on how to support rural sites with practice transformation efforts, how to address rural patients’ barriers to care, and how to grow the rural provider workforce. To submit your policy solutions, email the Bipartisan Policy Center before September 7.

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