Senators Smith, Barrasso Introduce Bipartisan Reauthorization of Key Program Aimed at Improving Rural Health Care

WASHINGTON, D.C. Today, U.S. Senators Tina Smith (D-Minn.) and John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Co-Chairs of the Senate Rural Health Caucus, introduced bipartisan legislation to reauthorize a key program that supports state health facilities across the country to help improve health care in rural areas.

“When I meet with families, farmers, businesses and community leaders in rural Minnesota, one of the first issues that comes up is healthcare,” said Senator Smith. “This bipartisan legislation will make sure State Offices of Rural Health have the resources they need to expand and improve healthcare services in rural communities. I’ll keep working to get this bill across the finish line and address the unique healthcare needs of rural America.”

“Wyoming’s State Office of Rural Health regularly provides rural health providers with critical resources and technical assistance vital to ensuring the highest quality care for patients across Wyoming. As a doctor, I’ve seen firsthand how this assistance benefits our state’s rural health clinics and hospitals,” said Senator Barrasso. “Our legislation would make sure this important program can continue to help providers deliver the best care to patients in rural communities across Wyoming and the country.”

The State Offices of Rural Health (SORH) Reauthorization Act of 2022 would ensure that State Offices of Rural Health have the financial resources they need to improve information-sharing, technical assistance, and care delivery in rural health settings. By reauthorizing the program for five years, this bill would also preserve the program’s flexibility to meet state and local rural health care needs.

Cosponsors of this legislation include U.S. Senators Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.).

This legislation is supported by the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health, the National Rural Health Association, and the Minnesota Department of Health.

“Reauthorizing the State Office of Rural Health funding would help guarantee that critical access hospitals and other essential rural health providers in Minnesota will have a statewide office to turn to for support and resources, as well as a willing partner for rural stakeholders in developing more options for health care student education, rural residency training, workforce research and other rural health needs.” – Zora Radosevich, Director, Office of Rural Health and Primary Care at the Minnesota Department of Health

“The National Rural Health Association (NRHA) applauds Senators John Barrasso (R-WY) and Tina Smith (D-MN) for their introduction of the State Offices of Rural Health (SORH) Program Reauthorization Act of 2022. Last reauthorized in 2018, and first authorized in 1990, the SORH program has been an integral part of improving health care in rural areas. The SORH program requires State Offices to coordinate rural health activities across each state and provide technical assistance to rural health care providers on relevant rural programs. NRHA urges Congress to pass this important legislation to reauthorize the SORH program at a level of $15 million for fiscal years 2023 to 2027. This increase would align with levels proposed by recent budget requests, and with recent Congressional appropriations.” – Alan Morgan, Chief Executive Officer, National Rural Health Association

“Reauthorization of the State Offices of Rural Health (SORH) Grant Program provides the vehicle to build the capacity of SORH and their stakeholders to help patients, neighbors and rural communities become and remain healthy. Every SORH Grant dollar is matched with $3 in non-federal funds, providing state-level consensus for growing collaboration around rural health needs. The effect of the increased appropriation provides approximately $50,000 to each of the 50 SORH. With the 3-to-1 match, $200,000 in service value is provided to rural communities in each state.” – Tammy Norville. President, National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health

“Wyoming’s low population and large geography by definition make rural health the norm rather than the exception across our state. We have built-in challenges balancing healthcare availability and costs. Rural health efforts to support access to care and workforce development are necessary to maintain and improve the health of our residents.” – Stefan Johansson, Director, Wyoming Department of Health

The full text of the legislation can be found here.