Minnesota Rural Health Pulse Newsletter
  March/April 2017
​The newsletter of the Minnesota Rural Health Association (MRHA), a private, non-profit organization missioned to strengthen Minnesota rural health and health care through leadership, education, advocacy and collaboration.

Want to become a more effective rural health advocate?
MRHA is accepting registrations for its  2017-2018 Rural Health Advocacy Certificate Program  (Aug-Mar). To register and for more details, contact  steve@mnruralhealth.org


MRHA Legislative Update

Minnesota and Congressional lawmakers are on their annual spring break until April 18th, and this is a good time to take stock of the policy landscape...

At both federal and state levels there is great uncertainty and concern about where we are headed with health care reform and public programs funding impacting rural communities. Reduced health and human services funding from federal and state governments appears likely, and it will fall heaviest on rural areas.

New Republican majorities are wrestling with how to repeal, replace and/or fix what has not worked well under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). All of this is happening in an environment of polarized politics impeding the kind of thoughtful dialogue and compromise needed to "get it right."


The Federal Policy Landscape

Republicans in the U.S. House have been trying to bring forward their American Health Care Act (AHCA). The AHCA generated deep concern among rural health advocates primarily because of proposed deep cuts in Medicaid particularly impacting rural states that embraced Medicaid expansion under the ACA (including Minnesota).

While the ACA has led to more people being covered, primarily under Medicaid, it has also created serious problems:  Rural hospitals and other providers report increased levels of bad debt and uncompensated care.  Rural residents have been left with fewer affordable health insurance options. There is clearly a need to fix what is not working.

MRHA has joined with others in voicing these concerns and urging Congress to be more thoughtful about solutions that avoid serious harm to rural communities. Although House Republicans failed to move the AHCA before spring break, negotiations and changes continue and they have plans to bring forward a modified proposal before the end of April.

​In meeting with members of Minnesota's Congressional delegation last week, MRHA and NRHA representatives stressed the need to avoid harm to the already fragile fabric of rural health care. Medicaid cuts, continued dysfunction in rural health insurance markets and stress on rural hospitals and other providers were among concerns shared.

MRHA and NRHA remain vigilant, and encourage rural health stake holders to contact their members of Congress now to share their concerns and urge more non-partisan cooperation.

Click here for the NRHA 2017 Regulatory Agenda.

The Minnesota Policy Landscape

Lawmakers in St. Paul completed work on all their major omnibus spending bills late last week before leaving on their spring break.  As in Congress, the Minnesota Legislature is hampered by polarized politics.

The Omnibus Health and Human Services Finance bill (SF800) includes reductions in planned HHS spending of $600 million, much of it from Medical Assistance (MA) reductions.  That includes taking back planned MA payment increases, delaying other MA payments, and removing ineligible participants from the state's public health programs, including MA.

"MA reductions always hit rural areas hardest," said MRHA executive director, Steve Gottwalt. "Minnesota's rural residents are poorer and older, and rely more heavily on Medicare and MA," he said.  That also puts rural hospitals and other health care facilities under greater strain.

Governor Mark Dayton has proposed increasing HHS spending $300 million over the next two years, and many observers expect he will veto the current Omnibus HHS Finance bill, setting the stage for tough negotiations before the Legislature adjourns at the end of May.

On a positive note, the omnibus HHS bill includes several measures to strengthen access to mental and behavioral health care.

MRHA maintains an active presence at your State Legislature, and encourages rural health stake holders and advocates to contact their state lawmakers now to share your needs and concerns.

Click here for MRHA's 2017 State of Minnesota Rural Health Report, including our state rural health priorities.

2017 MN Rural Health Conference: Shaping Sustainable Solutions
June 19-20 @ Duluth

Registration is OPEN!

Make plans now to attend this year's Minnesota Rural Health Conference! Exhibition space sold-out in just 33 hours, and this conference promises to be bigger and better than ever!

Register now for the state's premiere rural health event:  Click here.

Contact Kim Nordin at (218) 216-7037 or knordin@ruralcenter.org

MDH Office of Rural Health and Primary Care April Newsletter

​It's the latest from the Office of Rural Health and Primary Care (ORHPC) at the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH).

Click here for ORHPC's April Newsletter.

MN Gerontological Society Annual Conference
​April 28th @ Brooklyn Park

Healthy aging is a top rural health priority. That's why MRHA is pleased to partner with MGS and encourages you to attend their annual conference April 28th at the Earl Brown Heritage Center in Brooklyn Park, MN.

The conference begins with a morning keynote "The Longevity Economy" by 
Jody Holtzman, Senior Vice President, Market Innovation, AARP.

For more information and to register for the conference, Click here.

MN Gerontological Society and MRHA - FREE Webinar May 10th
Vision Loss and the Senior Population:  A Top Public Health Priority
by: Kate Grathwol, Ph.D., President and CEO of Vision Loss Resources

The prevalence of eye diseases in an aging population is a major public health concern identified by the U.S.Dept. of Health and Human Services.  As our population ages, the effects of age-related vision loss will be difficult to ignore: including loss of independence, increasing incident of isolation and depression, and other negative health outcomes. Learn how vision rehabilitation can help people age healthy in place.

To register: Click here.

Chris Clayton On Rural Health Leadership Radio

Check out the latest episode of Rural Health Leadership Radio featuring an interview with Chris Clayton, Policy Editor and Interim Markets Editor for DTN The Progressive Farmer since 2005.  

"If you close a hospital in a small town somewhere, it has a big drag on economic development, property values, things of that nature that you're maybe not thinking about. And then just the simple fact, that any kind of emergency now becomes even worse when you've got to drive longer to get some help."
​-Chris Clayton

Tune in to Rural Health Leadership Radio.

Health Care Workforce:
Scrubs Camps for Summer 2017

Make plans now to join HealthForce Minnesota at one of their middle or high school Scrubs Camps across the state this summer.

Middle and high school-aged campers will experience a variety of interactive hands-on activities and special field trips to get them excited about careers in the health sciences.  Sessions are led by healthcare professionals and faculty from area colleges and universities.

Camps are available in:  Rochester, Duluth, St. Cloud, Bemidji, Fergus Falls, Mankato, Cloquet, Winona, Moorhead and the Twin Cities
To register and for more information:
 Click here.  Scholarships are available.


Space is LIMITED so don't delay! (Many camps are nearly full) Share this information with anyone who might be interested!

Save The Date!
4th CALS Hospital Conference on Rural Emergency Care
Sept. 29 @ U of M Continuing Education and Conference Center in St. Paul

Registration is Open!

CALS invites you to exhibit at this exciting and innovative CME conference. 

The conference is for regional emergency and family physicians, PA’s, nurses, paramedics, other EMS professionals, as well as anyone interested in rural emergency care. 
For more information, visit: www.calsprogram.org

Rural Behavioral Health Practice Conference Oct. 6
Call for Presentations and Posters

Announcing the Call for Presentations and Posters for the 9th Annual Rural Behavioral Health Practice Conference, which is October 6, 2017.  Presentations are via webinar.  In Minnesota, the conference will originate from the University of Minnesota Morris.
The conference mission is to “Make quality continuing education accessible locally and affordably to behavioral health providers and researchers about the practice issues involved in working with rural people and communities.”
Consider presenting on topics that will be of particular interest to rural behavioral health professionals, as well as submitting posters on studies in any aspect of rural mental health.  To submit presentation and poster proposals, Click here.

Please forward this announcement to anyone who may be interested.

​For more conference information: Click here.

Join MRHA - The Voice of Rural Health!

If you are not currently a member of MRHA, or you know of an organization to which we should reach-out, contact steve@mnruralhealth.org, or visit http://www.MNRuralHealth.org for a membership application form.

We are “The Voice of Rural Health” and building our influence for positive change.  Join the team, and enjoy the benefits of leadership, education, advocacy and collaboration focused on improving rural health and health care in Minnesota!
Share this e-newsletter with others, and let us know of anyone who would like to be added to the distribution list.  Thank you!

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