FARMFEST: Sen. Smith Has Helped Deliver Health Care to Rural Minnesota

For Immediate Release:
August 4, 2020

As a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP) and the Rural Health Caucus, Senator Tina Smith understands how important health care is to Minnesotans.

Sen. Smith has worked especially hard on bringing affordable and accessible health care to rural Minnesota by fighting for telehealth services amid the COVID-19 pandemic, recruiting doctors and mental health professionals in rural areas, supporting rural health workforce programs, working to fund rural health clinics, and her crucial work to create a rural health liaison program through the USDA.


The COVID-19 Stimulus Included Two Bipartisan Pieces Of Legislation Senator Smith Introduced To Fund Rural And Telehealth Grant Programs. “On March 25, the Senate passed a coronavirus relief package that included two bipartisan pieces of legislation Senator Smith introduced to reauthorize rural and telehealth grant programs. In May, Smith introduced the bipartisan Tele-Mental Health Improvement Act to improve access to tele-mental health care as demand spikes during the coronavirus pandemic. In June, Smith introduced the Health Care at Home Act, which is cosponsored by Klobuchar, to provide telehealth parity for mental and physical health services. This month Senator Smith also introduced the bipartisan Home-Based Tele-mental Health Care Act to establish a tele-mental health demonstration program for people in farming, fishing, and forestry occupations.” [KTOE, 6/17/20]

Sen. Smith Introduced A Bipartisan Bill On Rural Health Day To Recruit And Keep Doctors In Rural Areas. “Minnesota Sen. Tina Smith will release a bipartisan bill on Thursday on Rural Health Day to recruit and keep doctors in rural areas.  She says many med students don’t learn or train in rural areas, so the idea in working in one may not occur to them.  Smith believes if they can train in non-metro areas, they’ll stay working there.” [KVRR, 11/20/19; S.2902, 11/20/19]

Sen. Smith Supported Loan Forgiveness For Mental Health Providers Getting Out Of School To Attract Them To Practices In Rural Minnesota. “During her KMRS Early Morning Show interview, U.S. Senator Tina Smith expressed her concern for the mental health of farmers. She said she has heard from many in the farm community as she tours around the state, and has offered up a bill in Congress to address part of the problem. According to Smith, her bill ‘would help to make better mental health services available in public schools.’ This, she said, would reduce some of the physical barriers as well as the stigma that persists for those in rural areas reaching out to get some help.  Smith also suggested loan forgiveness for mental health providers getting out of school to attract them to practices in rural Minnesota.” [KMRS/KKOK, 6/7/19]

Sens. Smith And Barrasso Introduced The Bipartisan Strengthening Our Rural Health Workforce, Which Would Address The Disparity In Access To Health Care In Rural America By Supporting Key Rural Health Workforce Programs. “Bipartisan legislation to strengthen rural healthcare has been introduced in the U.S. Senate.  Minnesota Democrat Tina Smith and Wyoming Republican John Barrasso are co-authors of the Strengthening Our Rural Health Workforce Act of 2019.  Smith tells Brownfield the bill would get to the root of a major problem in Rural America.  ‘I’ve been focused on this because I’ve visited so many rural doctor’s offices, clinics and hospitals, and everywhere I hear how difficult it can be to recruit and retain physicians and other healthcare provides in rural communities.’  She says the bill provides help to train more primary care physicians for rural areas.  ‘Right now we have a loan forgiveness program, but we want to make sure that’s targeted as much as possible in rural communities that need it the most.’  Smith says the Strengthening Our Rural Health Workforce Act would also establish a commission to identify and remove barriers to rural health workforce recruitment and retention efforts.” [Brownfield Ag News, 11/21/19; S.2902, 11/20/19]

Smith Introduced The Rural Health Clinic Modernization Act, Which Would Update Rules Governing Rural Health Clinics, Many Of Which Have Not Been Updated Since The RHC Program Was Created In The Late 1970’s. “Rural Health Clinics Bill: Sen. Smith and Republican Sen. of Wyoming will introduce the Rural Health Clinic Modernization Act of 2019. This bill would update rules governing Rural Health Clinics (RHCs). These clinics provide out-patient primary care services, including basic laboratory testing and emergency services, helping to ensure that people in rural areas have basic access to health care. Despite significant changes in the health system, many of the laws regulating RHCs have not been updated since the RHC program was created in the late 1970’s. Sen. Smith’s bill would update rules and guidelines that regulate RHCs. This legislation is supported by the National Association of Rural Health Clinics and has been vetted by the Minnesota Department of Health (DHS).” [KAXE, 4/5/19; S. 1037, 4/4/19]

Sen. Smith Bill To Create A “Rural Health Liaison” At USDA, Whose Job Will Be To Focus Federal Health Efforts On The Needs Of Rural America, Was Included In The Farm Bill And Signed Into Law. “On healthcare, Smith has focused on rural needs. She has taken a leadership role on the bipartisan Senate Rural Health Caucus, meeting with rural hospital CEOs, health providers and patients in Minnesota about their challenges. She worked with Republican Sen. Mike Rounds of South Dakota to create in the Senate Farm Bill a ‘Rural Health Liaison’ at USDA whose job will be to focus federal health efforts on the needs of rural America.” [S. 2894, 5/22/18; H.R. 2, 12/20/18; DL-Online, 11/1/18]

Follow Tina

Get campaign updates