Attached photo taken at National Rural Health Care Association’s annual policy summit in Washington, DC on February 5, 2013.

From left to right: Susan Frazier, MD Memorial Health Center Clinics Rib Lake; Bryon Crouse, MD UW Medical School Associate Dean for Rural and Community Health; Tim Size, Executive Director Rural Wisconsin Health Cooperative; Representative Ron Kind; David Hartberg,  Boscobel Area Health Care; Andrew Hartberg, son of David Hartberg; Bill Sexton, CEO Prairie du Chien Memorial Hospital, Jeremy Levin, Advocacy Director Rural Wisconsin Health Cooperative; John Eich, Director of the Wisconsin Office of Rural Health; Jerry Worrick, Ministry Door County Medical Center.

contributed…Washington, DC – U.S. Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI), member of the House Ways and Means Committee health subcommittee, was recently selected as Chair of the Rural Health Care Coalition in the House of Representatives. The Caucus is a bipartisan group of over 100 members who focus on improving access to care in rural communities.

“We have some of the best rural health care providers in the country right in our own backyard,” said Rep. Kind. “I am proud to have worked hard on their behalf during my time in office and look forward to the bipartisan progress we will be able to make as a coalition.  I will continue to advocate for legislation that gives rural hospitals and clinics the support they need and increases access to the care they provide.  Ensuring access to providers is vital to the long-term sustainability of rural communities.”

In addition, today Rep. Kind spoke at the National Rural Health Care Association’s annual policy institute where he addressed the importance of rural hospitals for both patient access and economic development, the potential impact of impending indiscriminate cuts on rural providers, and legislation he is authoring to provide more flexibility to rural hospitals to better care for their communities.

Rep. Kind also sat down with members of Wisconsin’s Rural Health Association including Tim Size, Executive Director of the Rural Wisconsin Health Cooperative; Jeremy Levin, Director of Advocacy of the Rural Wisconsin Health Cooperative; Bill Sexton, CEO of Prairie du Chien Memorial Hospital; Jim O’Keefe, CEO of Mile Bluff Medical Center in Mauston; David Hartberg, CEO of Boscobel Area Health Care and John Eich, Director of the Wisconsin Office of Rural Health; among others.

“Congressman Kind has been a staunch supporter of access to quality health care for rural Americans,” said Bill Sexton, CEO Prairie du Chien Memorial Hospital and 2006 President of the National Rural Health Association. “I have known him since he first took office and he has always been there when we needed him.”

Rep. Kind’s district is home to 17 critical access hospitals.  Rep. Kind was recognized as 2011 Legislator of the Year by the National Rural Health Association for his support, leadership and outstanding commitment to rural health care issues. Specifically, as part of health care reform, Rep. Kind helped secure health insurance exchanges and small business tax credits which were modeled after legislation he authored called the SHOP Act.  The exchanges and tax credits will help small businesses compete for talented employees on an even footing with larger firms for the first time, benefitting rural America.

With Rep. Kind’s leadership, health care reform also expanded provisions to help ensure rural doctors are paid fairly to cover operating expenses and are paid closer to the same amount as urban doctors.  In addition, Rep. Kind helped include in the bill both an Institute of Medicine study that will result in fairer Medicare payments for rural communities as well as important protections to maintain increased payments for rural labs, home health agencies, ambulances, rural outpatient hospitals and other rural providers.