The National Rural Health Association is disappointed that President Trump’s budget calls for a nearly 18 percent, or $15.1 billion, cut to the Department of Health and Human Services.
The cuts include funding to the National Institutes of Health, which would decrease by $5.8 billion, and to health professions and nurse training programs, which would decrease by $403 million.
The budget does not provide enough detail to determine how the cuts would affect the rural health safety net, or the budget areas of the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy or the State Offices of Rural Health, which are priorities to NRHA. While the budget does not specify which health professional and nurse training programs would be cut, NRHA is concerned these cuts will impact important rural workforce programs.
NRHA does applaud President Trump for not calling for cuts to Critical Access Hospitals, as President Obama’s budget called for.
Funding for the rural health safety net is more important than ever as rural Americans are facing a hospital closure crisis. Eighty rural hospitals have closed since 2010. Right now, 673 additional facilities are vulnerable and could close—this represents over 1/3 of rural hospitals in the U.S. Continued cuts in hospital payments have taken their toll, forcing far too many closures. Medical deserts are appearing across rural America, leaving many of our nation’s most vulnerable populations without timely access to care.
Rural health programs assist rural communities in maintaining and building a strong health care delivery system into the future. Most importantly, these programs help increase the capacity of the rural health care delivery system and true safety net providers.
Programs in the rural health safety net increase access to health care, help communities create new health programs for those in need and train the future health professionals that will care for the 62 million rural Americans. With modest investments, these programs evaluate, study and implement quality improvement programs and health information technology systems.
NRHA asks Congress to support strong funding for these important rural health programs.