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A Regional, Rural Northeast Kansas Hospital Celebrates the Completion of State-of-the-Art Facility

What began as an individual physician medical practice in 1859 in the small rural community of Onaga, Kan., has grown into a regional healthcare system spanning 10,000 square miles in three counties in northeast Kansas.  The vision for this regional system was seeded by dedicated doctors, nurses, and hospital staff and guided to fruition by a series of forward-thinking hospital administrators and board members.

Last month, Community HealthCare System (CHCS) took another step forward and cut the ribbon on their new hospital/hospital renovation project in Onaga.  The project was financed through a $17.59 million Community Facilities direct loan from USDA Rural Development and a companion $2 million USDA Rural Economic Development Loan from Bluestem Electric Cooperative.

A New Day for Healthcare in Livingston, Montana

When the first patient was admitted to the newly constructed Livingston HealthCare Hospital in late October, it marked a new era in state-of-the-art care for residents of Park County, Montana. The new critical care center boasts a Level IV Trauma Center with heli-pad, twenty-five beds, and 125,000 square feet to provide modern, high quality health care services to the over 15,000 people in the region.

And it's happening none too soon.

Rural Health Week: How the Affordable Care Act is Helping to Build a Stronger, Healthier Rural America

Keeping our rural communities healthy is key to building a stronger America. That’s why as we kick off this year’s Rural Health Week, I’m proud of the new affordable health insurance options that are available because of the Affordable Care Act, helping to give rural families piece of mind across the country.

Quality health care is critical to the success of rural children and families – and open enrollment for health insurance coverage only happens once each year. From now until January 31, 2016, you can sign up for an affordable plan that’s right for you and your family. If you currently have coverage, you might qualify for a plan that can save you money.

Preparing for a 'Silver Tsunami'

October is National Cooperative Month, and we’re highlighting several projects throughout the month that have been supported through USDA Rural Development’s Cooperative Services.  This Co-op Month blog courtesy of Deborah Craig, co-op development specialist with the Northwest Cooperative Development Center, discusses the need for senior health care options in rural America and how the co-op model is rising up to meet the challenge.

A new homecare cooperative is being formed to bring client-centered care to the elderly and handicapped in the coastal town of Port Townsend, Wash., population of just under 10,000. A sense of community runs strong here, and is especially felt for elders. When local caregivers, dissatisfied with current homecare options, met to discuss alternatives, a central concern was the ability to create locally owned, quality homecare services.

Partnerships Bring Rural Health Care to South Dakota

"We wouldn't be all that we are today if it weren't for USDA”, said Verne Hansen, Board President of the Faulkton Area Medical Center (FAMC).  With help from Rural Development, South Dakota, FAMC leveraged $5 million in loans and loan guarantees to build a state-of-the-art 12-bed facility serving as the Critical Access Hospital for Faulkton (population 744) and the surrounding community.  This new facility has yielded a 500% increase in patient revenues and improved the level of care. Due to overwhelming demand, FAMC is planning an expansion to continue meeting the health care needs of rural South Dakotans.

Recently, South Dakota’s Rural Development office teamed up with the Department of Health and Human Services, the State of South Dakota, the South Dakota Association of Healthcare Organizations, Dakota State University, and East River Electric Cooperative to bring together providers and funders to generate concrete plans improving access to rural health care in our state. One concrete outcome was workshop on the collaborative Rural Health Financing Initiative, where we focus on maximizing and utilizing the resources we currently have at our disposal to best meet the needs of today and the future. To illustrate the path to success, Faulkton Area Medical Center CEO Jay Jahnig gave a first-hand example of how USDA was able to provide the financial support that allowed FAMC to significantly increase its quality and quantity of service to the community.

$1 Billion Invested in Rural Health Care Across 13 States

In late 2011, the President announced a White House Rural Council initiative lead by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to invest in rural health and link rural doctors and hospitals to financing for health IT. The initiative was designed to address the need for financing to support the adoption of health IT systems in rural communities.  Financing has been cited as one of the top challenges for rural doctors and hospitals serving remote and poor communities.

Between 2012 and 2014, the HHS and USDA led initiative generated approximately $1 Billion in rural health care financing across 13 states. These investments, funded by USDA, included grants and loans to help rural clinics and hospitals transition from paper to electronic health records (EHRs), encourage exchange of health information with health care providers and patients, and offer telehealth services.

Affordable Care Act Gives New Farmers the Freedom to Farm

As every farmer and rancher will tell you, life on the farm means you make tough choices every day. At times the challenges and risks facing farmers, especially those just starting out, can seem difficult and daunting. Now, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, new farmers have one less thing to worry about: they no longer have to choose between doing what they love and having access to affordable, reliable health insurance coverage for themselves and their families.

There are stories like Elena, who worked alongside her father on their Colorado farm throughout her early 20s. The Affordable Care Act allowed her to remain on her parent’s health insurance through the age of 25. But after she turned 26, she had to take a job in town that came with health benefits. By getting Affordable Care Act marketplace coverage, she was able to come back to her family farm while maintaining access to health coverage.

Secretary's Column: Deadline Approaching for Health Insurance Coverage that Begins January 1

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is already making a difference in the lives of millions of rural Americans. Thanks to the ACA, families can choose from a variety of affordable insurance plans and many will qualify for financial assistance to help them pay for coverage.

The deadline is coming up to sign up for health insurance coverage that begins on January 1. To start the new year with coverage, you must sign up by December 15 at healthcare.gov or call 1-800-318-2596 if you need help signing up.

Why Rural Health Matters Today, and Every Day

Today is National Rural Health Day, and I'm giving a speech at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. to talk about what USDA Rural Development has done to strengthen access to health care in our rural communities, as well as carry a message from President Obama on the importance of this day.

Critical care infrastructure is a challenge in any community, and in our rural areas it is often compounded by distances that are unthinkable to those who live in our urban centers. Take Alaska, for example: Yesterday we announced investments to bring an ambulance and emergency medical equipment to St. Paul Island in the Bering Sea. The nearest hospital facility is almost 800 miles away in Anchorage. That's like someone in Illinois having to come to Washington, D.C. for medical care.

Secretary's Column: The White House Rural Council: Partnering in Support of Rural America

Rural America faces tremendous uncertainty today. Congress has not yet passed a Food, Farm and Jobs Bill, and the current extension of 2008 Farm Bill programs will soon expire. Additionally, thus far, no budget has been provided by Congress to continue funding the Federal government past September 30.

Amid this uncertainty, USDA remains focused on our mission and on our work to revitalize the rural economy.  We have delivered record investments under President Obama’s leadership, and we will continue working to do so.   In a time of reduced resources, we’ve also taken a wide range of new, collaborative approaches with other government agencies—complementing our public-private partnerships and creating better collaboration among state and local partners.