Illinois Rural Health Care Leaders Attend 2024 National Rural Health Association Policy Institute to Advocate for Rural Health

A group of rural health care professionals stand together holding a sign that reads "I Love Rural Health"

Pictured Left to Right: Charles James, CEO, North American HMS; Jim Johnson, CEO, Franklin Hospital; Kevin Goss, VP Clinical Operations Jersey Community Hospital; Don Robbins, CEO, Massac Memorial Hospital; Trina Casner, CEO, Pana Community Hospital; Pat Schou; Karissa Turner, CEO, Wabash General Hospital; Beth King, CEO, Jersey Community Hospital; Abby Radcliffe, Senior Director, Illinois Hospital Association; and Ada Bair, CEO, Memorial Hospital Association

Last month, ICAHN Executive Director, Pat Schou, along with 18 other Illinois rural health care leaders, attended the National Rural Health Association’s 35th Annual Rural Health Policy Institute held in Washington D.C.

This event is designed to provide a voice for rural health advocates, build a rapport with local policy makers, and create awareness about rural health issues.

Nearly 60 million Americans reside in a rural community. According to the National Institute for Health Care Management (NIHCM) Foundation, nearly 80% of rural America is medically underserved. Factors such as health care workforce shortages, limited access to childcare, limited access to safe and reliable transportation, as well as higher rates of unemployment and poverty create challenges for rural residents to receive high quality, reliable medical care.

Through the combination of primary and secondary data, as well as first-hand experiences, rural health advocates bring these inequities and social determinates of health to the attention of senators and congressmen to help instill new policies to tackle these major issues.

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, studies have shown that medical students who have grown up and resided in a rural community have a higher percentage to return to that community to practice in. With that knowledge, Schou and other advocates are voicing the importance of funding local community colleges to expand rural clinical training programs to ensure that students can experience practicing in a rural environment.

Other issues that Illinois advocates are tackling include creating easier access to obstetric and maternal services, funding the workforce for medical providers, protecting the 340B program and diminishing the administrative burden of billing prior authorization for payors.

“It’s a great experience,” said Schou. “Illinois values their rural communities, and we are out there to make a difference and ensure that we have a voice at the table.”

Because of Schou’s passion and perseverance to work towards positive change for rural health on both a state and federal level, she was awarded the 2024 NRHA Advocate of the Year Award.

Schou continues to provide resources and support in her executive role at ICAHN.

ICAHN is a network of 59 small, rural hospitals dedicated to strengthening the operations of its member hospitals through collaboration. The organization is composed of Illinois hospitals who have earned critical access hospital designation by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services and is recognized nationally for its work with rural healthcare, administering several state, federal, and private healthcare programs.