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US Secretary of Health and Human Services Checks State of Rural Health Care.

After a brief stop in Joplin the Secretary of Health and Human Services attended a roundtable discussion at St. John’s Hospital in Aurora. There, she listened to concerns about the lack of primary care physicians and other concerns related to rural health care.  KSMU’s Matthew Barnes has details.

Rural health care issues were the topic at hand for the Secretary of Health, Kathleen Sebelius. She sat with open ears as members of the panel discussed many problems that rural hospitals face. President of the regional division for St. Johns Clinic, David Barbe, was a member of the panel. 

 “From the clinical standpoint, I think all of us know about the aging of the population, the significant increase of Medicare patients we will be seeing over the next ten to twenty years.  That comes in the face of a very challenging economic situation.  Our number of residents living below the poverty line is greater here than for the rest of the state.  The number of Medicaid recipients is greater than the rest of the state.  And yet we have significant challenge in finding enough physicians and other health care providers to meet the demographic demands,” says Barbe.

Barbe also cites a greater population of people with heart and chronic lung disease due to obesity and smoking.

In order to save money and also keep people healthier the most prominent possibility for a solution, according to Sebelius is continual, follow up care for all patients.

 “We pay a little over twice as much as any other country in the world for health care and yet we don’t have health results that look very good.  We think that better outcomes by far is the best way to go and if we lower smoking rates and lower obesity rates the two underlying causes of lots of our chronic conditions. We will have a significant impact on healthcare outcomes because right now 7 out of 10 deaths is related to chronic disease and 75 cents of every health care problems is related to chronic disease so if we can lower those two factors we will have a huge impact on what people are paying and have a healthier country,” says Sebelius. 

According to Sebelius, improving quality measure could save Medicare $50 billion over ten years.  For KSMU News, I’m Matthew Barnes.