Opinion: The covid-19 crisis is going to get much worse when it hits rural areas
Now's the time to prepare.
federally qualified health centers, rural health clinics and hospices, so they, too, can be reimbursed for serving patients remotely.Of course, telemedicine is far from a panacea, as broadband access remains limited in so much of rural America. The stimulus included
an additional $100 millionfor rural broadband access, but this will not be enough. In the long term, policymakers must continue to close the “digital divide,” recognizing that Internet access is both an economic and health necessity. In the short term, Internet service providers should consider rolling out mobile Internet units and providing WiFi hotspot access to temporarily increase connectivity.
ADADMore importantly, we must expand the social safety net, especially the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, child nutrition programs, Supplemental Security Income, housing assistance and Medicaid. Lawmakers must also ensure the availability of these programs to rural residents. For example, unlike their urban counterparts, many rural children cannot come to schools each day to pick up meals. The Agriculture Department
launched a pilot programto deliver meals to rural children in some regions, but initiatives such as this should be more widespread.It is clear the battle against covid-19 will look vastly different in the heartland than in our cities. The U.S. Navy won’t be docking a floating hospital in Nuckolls County, Neb. But if what’s happened in America’s coastal cities can teach us anything, it’s that the coming weeks will determine the trajectory of this virus. And we don’t have a moment to waste.
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