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Worthington Daily Globe: Franken Pushes Bills to Help Rural Health

Friday, July 22, 2016

Sen. Al Franken, Co-Chair of the bipartisan Senate Rural Health Caucus, is committed to improving rural health care in Minnesota and across the country.

For the 1.2 million Minnesotans who live in rural communities, getting access to quality health care can be a real struggle. Rural residents often have to travel long distances to see a doctor, and the specialized services they need simply may not be available in or near their communities.

Beyond that, rural health providers often have fewer resources to provide all the services a patient needs, and they struggle to find skilled workers to serve in rural hospitals and clinics. And lack of rural broadband Internet services can stifle the use of new health care technologies-like telemedicine-that could make better care possible.So, when Sen Franken was named Co-chair of the Senate Rural Health Caucus, he went to work to ensure that rural communities have the tools and the resources they need to provide the best health care possible.

Recently, Senator Franken introduced a legislative package to increase access to health services, help rural providers recruit skilled workers to deal with workforce shortages, and increase the quality of care delivered in rural communities. The measures were informed by nearly 30 meetings his office held with more than 300 providers, community leaders, and rural health experts across Minnesota.

The Worthington Daily Globe reported:

Rural areas should not be left behind in medical care, Franken said.

"I don't think it should be part of living in beautiful rural Minnesota that you have worse health-care quality," he said.

One key is to encourage broadband expansion in rural areas, Franken said. Telemedicine can use video and other technology for a doctor or other professional to see a patient across the state.Franken said he hoped to work with other senators of both parties on the issue as co-chairman of the Senate Rural Health Caucus.

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