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House lawmakers advocate to preserve medical funding for underserved, rural areas

House lawmakers advocate to preserve medical funding for underserved, rural areas
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A bipartisan group of House lawmakers is urging congressional leadership to preserve medical funding for underserved and rural areas amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Reps. Doug LaMalfaDouglas (Doug) LaMalfaGrowing number of lawmakers test positive for COVID-19 after Capitol siege READ: The Republicans who voted to challenge election results Interior ends endangered species protections for gray wolves MORE (R-Calif.) and Xochitl Torres Small (D-N.M.) sent a letter to Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiSenators shed masks after CDC lifts mandate House extends proxy voting to July On The Money: IRS to start monthly payments of child tax credit July 15 | One-fourth of Americans took financial hits in 2020: Fed MORE (D-Calif.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyTrump signals he's ready to get back in the game Manchin, Murkowski call for bipartisan Voting Rights Act reauthorization 8 in 10 Republicans who've heard of Cheney's removal agree with it: poll MORE (R-Calif.) on Monday highlighting shortages of physicians and resources in underserved and rural areas.

The letter, signed by more than a dozen other lawmakers, requests long-term funding and resources for programs that serve rural communities and vulnerable populations. 

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It asks the leaders to extend the reauthorization of several programs to five years, from their current Nov. 30 expiration date, to stabilize them. The programs were initially reauthorized as part of the coronavirus stimulus bill passed last month.

The programs include the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education (THCGME) Program, Community Health Centers (CHCs), National Health Service Corps, Special Diabetes Program and Special Diabetes Program for Indians.

The lawmakers asserted that the continuous deadlines “leave health care providers and patients alike facing uncertainty as the expiration date looms.”

“The absence of a long-term authorization undermines health care providers’ ability to invest in purchases such as medical equipment and forces them to brace for significant layoffs of staff,” the letter said. 

LaMalfa said in a statement that THCGMEs treat those in “medically underserved rural areas” and help train physicians who could stay long-term and benefit the area.   

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“A 5-year reauthorization of critical funding for THCGMEs and CHCs helps grow the number of physicians in our area, while giving patients the stability they need,” he said.

Torres Small said rural health care providers “already operate at the margins” and are under “more financial strain and uncertainty” without the programs’ continuation confirmed.

“Doctors and nurses are working around the clock to protect our families and neighbors, and it’s now on Congress to step up to end unnecessary doubt and secure long-term authorization for these proven community-based programs,” she said in a statement.

Their call comes amid the coronavirus crisis, which has infected more than 383,200 people and killed at least 12,021 people in the U.S. There have been 20,191 recorded recoveries nationwide, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.