Challenges and Innovations in Rural Health Policy

June 21-23, 2017 | Denver


This invitational meeting, sponsored by the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) in partnership with the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), brought together teams of key state policymakers to strategize about improving access to rural health care through policy innovations to improve rural health systems.

This meeting addressed four issues related to improving access to care in rural areas, highlighting various policy options and state strategies within each issue area:

  • New health system changes.
  • State Strategies to Address the Workforce in Rural America.
  • Innovations for sustainable rural health facilities.
  • Using data to drive change.

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Wednesday, June 21

1:30-2 p.m.


2:-2:15 p.m.


  • Martha King, group director, Health, NCSL

Dr. George Sigounas, Ph.D., administrator, Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services - Video Welcome

2:15-3:15 p.m.

Rural Health Care Trends, Challenges and Opportunities: New Health System Changes
What are the current challenges in providing health care in rural areas and what role do policymakers play in improving care for these underserved areas?  



  • Tom Morris, associate administrator for Rural Health Policy, HRSA | Powerpoint | PDF file-21 pages
3:15-3:30 p.m.

Overview/Orientation to the Meeting & State Team Process



  • Kate Blackman, and NCSL Health Team
3:30-4 p.m.

Polling and Pre-testing

4-4:15 p.m. Break
4:15-5:15 p.m. State Team Breakout #1: Introductions and Goals
State teams will meet for the first time to discuss what you hope to gain from the meeting, initial priorities for improving rural health in your state, as well as initiative, successes and challenges in the state.
5:30-6 p.m. Networking Opportunity and Reception
6-7 p.m.

State Team Dinner


  • Martha King, NCSL

This dinner will give state team members the opportunity to get to know each other or become reacquainted, and meet leaders from other states.

7-8 p.m.

Medicaid and Rural Health Care in Colorado


  • Lisa Waugh, NCSL


  • Gretchen Hammer, Medicaid director, Colorado | Powerpoint | PDF file-7 pages
Thursday, June 22
8-8:30 a.m.

Breakfast Buffet and Networking

8:30-11:30 a.m.

State Strategies to Address the Workforce in Rural America
This session will provide an overview of policy options that can build and leverage states’ health care workforce to help address provider shortages and maldistributions. Panel presentations will highlight workforce trends across the states and explore state strategies to improve access to care by utilizing existing providers in different ways and considering other ways to grow and expand the workforce.


Panel A: Recruiting and Retaining Providers in Rural Areas
This session will provide an overview of recruitment and retention strategies broadly, and scholarship and loan repayment programs to recruit rural providers.


  • Emily Heller, NCSL


  • Laura Tobler, NCSL | Powerpoint | PDF file-7 pages
  • Charlie Alfero, Southwest Center for Health Innovation, New Mexico | Powerpoint | PDF file-11 pages




Panel B: Emerging Health Professions
Panelists will provide an overview of some of the emerging health professions: community health workers, community paramedicine, dental therapists and peer support specialists.



  • Sydne Enlund, NCSL | Powerpoint | PDF file-19 pages


  • Kevin McGinnis, National Association of State EMS Officials | Powerpoint | PDF file-11 pages
  • Ann Lynch, American Dental Hygienists’ Association | Powerpoint | PDF file-6 pages
  • Patrick Hendry, Mental Health America


Panel C: Leveraging Providers’ Reach
This panel will focus expanding health care providers’ reach through telehealth and scope of practice strategies to address provider shortages in rural areas.



  • Kate Blackman, NCSL


  • Sydne Enlund, NCSL
  • Mario Gutierrez, Center for Connected Health Policy | Powerpoint | PDF file-9 pages
11:15-11:30 a.m. Break
11:30 a.m.-12:45 p.m.

State Team Breakout #2: Objectives
Teams will discuss their state’s unique challenges around providing quality rural health care and initiatives already in place. Teams will brainstorm and select their goal(s), and may begin discussing strategies to achieve the goals.

12:45-1:45 p.m.


1:45-3 p.m.

Innovations for Sustainable Rural Health Facilities
This session will examine state strategies to ensure rural residents have access to the various facilities that provide essential care in rural communities, including rural health clinics, rural hospitals and more.


  • Samantha Scotti, NCSL


  • Jacqueline Barton True, Washington State Hospital Association | Powerpoint | PDF file-4 pages
  • Lauren Hughes, Pennsylvania Department of Health | Powerpoint | PDF file-8 pages
3-3:15 p.m. Break
3:15-5 p.m. State team breakout #3: Strategies
Teams will brainstorm and select strategies for each goal in the action plan.
5 p.m. Evening and Dinner on your own
friday, june 23
8-8:30 a.m.

Breakfast Buffet and Networking

8:30-9:30 a.m.

Using Health Data to Drive Change
This session will address ways to use data to maximize investments and make policy decisions.


  • Lisa Waugh, NCSL


  • Joan Henneberry, Health Management Associates
  • Tracey Campbell, Center for Improving Value in Health Care | Powerpoint | PDF file-8 pages
9:30-9:45 a.m. Break
9:45-11 a.m.

State Team Breakout #4: Action Steps
State teams will finalize their action plan and prepare a group member who will provide a short synopsis of the state’s work to the larger group.

11-11:30 a.m. Break and Hotel Check-Out
11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

Lunch and State Team Reports, Learning from Each Other

12:30 p.m.