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April 20, 2020

On Teleconference, Senator King Lays Out How Coronavirus is Challenging Maine’s Rural Health System

BRUNSWICK, ME – Today, U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) participated in a telephone press conference to open “Rural Health Care Week” – especially the unique coronavirus-related strains on the healthcare system – in a Medicaid Awareness Month event with Protect Our Care. In addition to Senator King, the call also featured Maine State Representative Anne Perry (D-Calais) and Brad Woodhouse, Executive Director of Protect Our Care.

“The impacts of coronavirus – including the costs of preparation and loss of expected revenue – are hitting our rural healthcare providers hard, many of whom were already facing challenges,” said Senator King. “These hospitals are cornerstones of rural communities across Maine, providing not only jobs but also peace of mind that, in the event of an emergency, someone is there to help. We need to make sure that these providers are able to continue to serve rural Maine communities, both during this crisis and after it’s over.”

During his time in the Senate, Senator King has been a strong advocate for accessible and affordable rural healthcare. Last week, he sent a letter to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services urging the administration to resume premium processing for physicians seeking employment-based visas in order to bolster healthcare access, particularly in rural areas. Earlier this month, Senator King joined a group of his colleagues in sending a letter urging Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar to provide immediate assistance to rural hospitals and clinics. In late March, he cosponsored the Immediate Relief for Rural Facilities and Providers Act, legislation aiming at addressing the impending crisis facing our healthcare system as the spread of the coronavirus epidemic increasingly strains hospitals and providers across the country.

In December 2019, Senator King cosponsored the Rural Maternal and Obstetric Modernization of Services (Rural MOMS) Act, a bipartisan bill which would improve data collection, expand services, and award funding to help ensure that new and expecting moms living in rural communities get the care they need. In October, he held a panel discussion in Bangor with local healthcare providers and public wellness experts on the best ways to use prevention strategies to improve health outcomes and reduce costs. In November, Senator King announced his support for the Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act. In late July, he joined a bipartisan group of senators to urge the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to delay their proposed Rural Health Care (RHC) Program report and order to better address the concerns of rural healthcare providers and medical communities. In the June edition of his Inside Maine podcast, Senator King welcomed both U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) and Kris Doody, CEO of Cary Medical Center to discuss rural healthcare policy and ways to improve access to care across the country.

Today’s conversation continues Senator King’s effort to engage with Maine people from all walks of life and helpful organizations to address questions surrounding the coronavirus pandemic and identify remaining work to be done. Since last month, he has participated in virtual listening session with members of the Penobscot Bay Regional Chamber of Commerce, joined a video conference call with civics and history teachers from schools across Maine, connected with members of the Maine State Chamber of Commercespoke with Maine seniors in a call hosted by AARP Maine, and 500 Maine employees of Sun Life.

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