To the editor:
People living in rural America today are facing greater and greater challenges, and those of us in New Hampshire’s rural communities are no exception. As a business owner, community organizer and former elected official from the North Country, I felt heard when I read Elizabeth Warren’s plan to invest in rural America. She recognizes some of the biggest challenges facing our communities and has a strong plan to address them.
Her focus on expanding health care in rural communities is exceptional. Coos County spans about 1,830 square miles, yet has only four hospitals. This can make it difficult to get quick and reliable access to medical care, and puts people living in rural areas at a potentially life-threatening disadvantage. To make matters worse, the opioid epidemic hitting our state creates an even greater need for accessible health care, yet we continue to find ourselves overlooked.
Elizabeth’s plan would substantially increase funding for community health centers, and establish a $25 billion fund that would support a wide variety of health-care options such as building new clinics, expanding capacity and services at an existing clinic, and improving transportation to hospitals. This fund would give rural areas like ours much needed flexibility to establish and expand the services we need most. Her plan would also help rural hospitals stay open, by raising Medicare reimbursement rates for rural hospitals and taking strong anti-trust action against hospital mergers that threaten the quality or accessibility of care.
And Elizabeth will invest $10 billion over the next 10 years to end the opioid crisis once and for all. Under her plan, New Hampshire would receive an estimated $13.2 million annually to fight the opioid crisis and our hardest hit cities and counties, including Coos, could apply for additional funding through the bill’s local formula grants.
Elizabeth’s rural plan would also create a public option for broadband internet access. We live in a digital economy, and limited broadband access to the internet cuts us off from a world of job opportunities. Twenty-five and seven-tenths percent of Coos County lacks access to broadband, and because of the loopholes in FCC reporting requirements this figure actually underestimates the gap.
Access to high-speed internet will not just help rural communities survive, but is also key to making sure they thrive. By providing federal funding to co-ops, nonprofits and local governments to build high-speed networks in every corner of America, Elizabeth’s broadband plan would help rural communities.
Unlike our current president, Elizabeth knows what she is talking about. She is from the heartland, has lived through many of the problems she is aiming to fix, and is not afraid to fight for the big structural changes we need to make.
Taken together with Elizabeth’s earlier proposals for universal childcare, affordable housing, student debt cancellation, and free public college — these plans would transform rural economic opportunity and quality of life. I hope you will join me in supporting her and her vision for our rural communities.