Farm Bill with Rural Health Provisions Heads to President’s Desk
This week, Congress approved, with bipartisan support, a Farm Bill agreement that reauthorizes the nation’s food and agriculture programs for five years. The package, which now awaits the President’s signature before becoming law, includes provisions aimed at providing opportunities for stabilization and innovation for rural hospitals.
Specifically, the final package includes provisions aimed at combating substance use disorder in rural areas, increases funding for distance learning and telemedicine and clarifies that rural hospitals qualify for loans or loan guarantees to help stabilize their financial situation. The agreement further specifies that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) must “work with rural hospitals to improve their financial health as a part of a refinancing agreement.” In addition, the package creates a rural health liaison within USDA who will be tasked with advocating on behalf of the healthcare and relevant infrastructure needs of rural hospitals and other rural providers in coordination with the Secretary of Health and Human Services.