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AARP Urges Congress to Improve Rural Health Care

Portrait of a Senior Farmer with his Dog
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En español | Long drives to hospitals, a shortage of health care providers, as well as limited transportation and internet access often make it difficult for people in rural communities to get the health care they need.

AARP is calling on lawmakers to eliminate those barriers, which can lead to poor health outcomes for the 1 in 5 Americans living in rural areas.

“Residents in rural communities face significant health disparities, and worse health outcomes, across numerous measures and conditions, when compared to urban areas,” we wrote in comments submitted Oct. 5 to the U.S. House Ways & Means Committee. “Lack of access to services is a driver of these disparities.”

The challenges are especially difficult for older adults, who may lack the mobility and financial means to travel to see a doctor. Some may choose to go without care if their primary care provider or specialist is too far away, we noted in the comments to lawmakers.

To improve health care access and outcomes in rural areas, AARP recommends:

  • Developing programs to train, recruit and retain health care providers to work in rural and underserved areas, including providing incentives such as scholarships and grants, student loan forgiveness and training stipends.
  • Increasing pay, benefits and training opportunities for direct care workers, such as home health aides and personal care attendants.
  • Increasing access to telehealth, which can reduce or eliminate distance and transportation barriers.
  • Investing more in oral health care, including training for providers and coverage for dental services in Medicare Part B. Poor oral health can cause complications for people with chronic conditions and contribute to cognitive decline, we wrote. 
  • Establishing minimum federal nursing home staffing standards to improve nursing home quality.
  • Approving tax credits, training and other programs to support family caregivers in rural areas, who are more likely to report high levels of financial strain.

Read our comments and learn more about how AARP is fighting to improve health care access.

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