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Coalition Urges Trump Administration to Help Rural Health Care System Prepare for Coronavirus

As rural communities brace for the arrival of the novel coronavirus, a coalition of organization representing rural communities is urging the administration to ensure that the rural health care system has adequate resources and support to respond to this crisis.
 
In a letter sent to President Donald Trump and U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, National Farmers Union, the American Federation of Teachers, Farm Credit Council, Farmworker Justice, the National Association of Counties, and the National Rural Health Association noted that while COVID-19 may be slower to spread to rural areas, its impact is expected to be at least as serious as it has been in urban areas. This is, in part, because rural Americans are more vulnerable to the virus but are less able to access treatment. “The greatest risk factors for severe illness from COVID-19 are advanced age and serious chronic medical conditions– both of which disproportionately affect rural Americans,” the coalition wrote. At the same time, those individuals are more likely to be poor and uninsured, making it difficult for them to afford testing and treatment services.
 
But because a spate of rural hospital closures over the past decade has left communities with a shortage of medical professionals, hospital beds, equipment, and funding, even patients who can afford treatment still may not be able to access it. “Even in the best circumstances, rural hospitals are often ill-equipped to handle acute medical issues,” the letter reads. “But in the event of a pandemic, understaffed and underfunded facilities will undoubtedly struggle to meet the needs of every patient.”
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