By Randy Veach | President, Arkansas Farm Bureau Federation
In an editorial that appeared in the Spring 2017 issue of Front Porch Magazine, Arkansas Farm Bureau Federation President Randy Veach discusses the importance of hospitals and rural health care. Go to http://www.arfb.com/ to read the rest of the magazine and learn more.The first run at passing “Trumpcare” – as some are calling the most recent attempt at health care reform, much like many came to refer to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) as “Obamacare” – was unsuccessful primarily because of conflicting objectives for the next wave of health-care reform.
The future of health care in our country cannot hinge on a single topic. However, I strongly believe the stability and sustainability of the community hospital model must be a critical factor in whatever bill Congress ultimately considers.
Rural Arkansans depend on quality care from rural hospitals. Obviously, our farmers and ranchers live and work primarily in rural parts of the state. And access to quality health care shouldn’t be another barrier to the sustainability of the farmer and rancher lifestyle or our rural communities.
While Arkansas has avoided hospital closures since the launch of the ACA – mostly by creative use of federal Medicaid reserves to help fund insurance coverage for eligible participants – neighboring states suffered significant hospital closings. Texas has lost 15 rural hospitals since 2013.
If/when Congress replaces the ACA, it must stabilize funding for hospitals. Otherwise, it would hurt rural community hospitals whose revenue streams and economic well-being are tenuous at best. Rural areas tend to have facilities especially reliant on Medicare and Medicaid funding.
Arkansas’ community hospitals are an important link to the health and vitality of our state. ArFB’s interest in this topic dates almost to the start of our organization. Along with the Arkansas Hospital Association and the Arkansas Medical Society, Farm Bureau loaned the initial capital to organize Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield in 1949. Then, and now, we recognized the need for access to health insurance as a stabilizing factor for families and communities.
We also have a 24-year involvement in the Medical Applications of Science for Health (M*A*S*H) camps, where high school juniors and seniors are exposed to health-care careers. Rural students are a major target for the M*A*S*H camps. Those students are more likely to return to rural areas to practice medicine. This summer features 34 two-week M*A*S*H camps, each offered free to selected students.
Additionally, Farm Bureau helps underwrite the UAMS Rural Medical Student Leadership Association. This organization helps medical students interested in rural practice to understand the particular challenges and opportunities at community medical practices.
On a personal note, I’m proud of the announcement earlier this year of the Stanley E. Reed Professorship for Emergency Medicine, Trauma and Injury Prevention at UAMS. The name of the endowed position honors my friend and the former ArFB president. Stanley was keenly interested in emergency medicine for rural communities, especially treatment for those involved in farm accidents and the need for expanded medical expertise in rural areas. Dr. Tony Seupal is the first recipient of this endowed position. He will no doubt guide continued improvements in emergency medicine throughout our state.
We look forward to seeing the next generation of American health-care policy. We urge our Congressional delegation to craft health-care reform that ensures hospitals have necessary funding to provide our citizens with the care they need and deserve, regardless of where they live.
God bless you and your families. God bless our farmers and ranchers. And God bless Arkansas Farm Bureau.