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ICYMI: Former Ag Secretary Mike Espy Urges Action to Address Rural Health Care Crisis in Mississippi, Across America

April 11, 2024
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ICYMI: Former Ag Secretary Mike Espy Urges Action to Address Rural Health Care Crisis in Mississippi, Across America

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On April 9, OCP board member and former Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy joined Punchbowl News for a half-day summit that explored access to health care in rural communities. The event highlighted the perspectives of leaders from the Hill and the health care industry.

With the highest poverty rate and ranking among the most uninsured states in the nation, Mississippians endure some of the worst health care access and experience the lowest life expectancy in the United States. To make matters worse, residents rely on care from hospitals that are growing more financially vulnerable. More than 80 rural hospitals have shut their doors since the beginning of 2010. Five of these hospitals have been in Mississippi, landing the state in the top 5 in the nation for closures.

“I know what it’s like to not have access to the health care you need. When I was five or six, I nearly died because my grandfather’s hospital — Afro-American Hospital — had run out of oxygen canisters and I was fighting yet another asthma attack,” said former Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy. “It was my father who saved my life that day when he drove to the then-white hospital in Yazoo City to get the oxygen that I so desperately needed.”

“I was very vocal in 2020 when Shy Shumaker died of an asthma attack because her local rural hospital did not have an emergency room. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again,” he continued. “No one — not Shy nor myself — should have to worry about access to critical health care services. We need to invest in hospitals and the patients they serve to help address these barriers and inequities.”

An increasingly aging population and a high prevalence of patients with multiple complex chronic conditions in rural America creates a high demand for health care. However, health care workforce shortages, health facility closures, and increasing long travel distances to care contribute to troubling health outcomes in rural communities across our country. Expanding Medicaid is a solution that will allow patients — especially in rural areas — to receive the care, testing, and medical assistance they need to live healthy, long lives.

“It’s not the rural hospital’s fault that its emergency room was forced to close. This closure and Shy’s struggle for timely, quality health care is a sign of our times. Rural hospitals in Mississippi and in rural communities across the country are closing at record speed. It’s time for us to act,” said Espy.

View the full panel here.


About One Country Project
Rural America holds an essential role in moving the United States forward and the One Country Project is dedicated to ensuring Rural America’s priorities and values are heard and reflected in policy at the federal level. To learn more, visit us at www.onecountryproject.com or on Twitter or Facebook.

Posted on April 11, 2024 in Press Releases.
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