While there is fundamental debate over the future of healthcare in our country playing out in the United States Congress and Supreme Court, there are many things Oregon can do at the state level to make sure Oregonians get the best care possible. One of my priorities is improving healthcare in rural communities.
- We need to recruit more healthcare professionals from rural communities, and train more healthcare professionals in rural settings. The “Oregon Rural Scholars” program from Oregon Health & Science University and the forthcoming “Master of Medical Science” program from George Fox University are great starts in this direction at the physician assistant level, but more must be done to make sure that healthcare education at all levels becomes less clustered around Portland and more evenly distributed around the entire state.
- Federal healthcare funding must go directly to rural communities and not get held up in political gamesmanship or inefficient agencies. Lowering costs for patients should be our north star.
- Mental health care is particularly challenging for rural communities: not just due to cultural stigma and a lack of anonymity in small towns, but also because of shortages of mental health workforce professionals in rural areas and the affordability of care. Through leadership and determination, we can overcome these obstacles for rural Oregon. (Click here to watch the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Yamhill County Candidates Forum, which I participated in alongside other candidates for office in 2020).
The novel coronavirus pandemic has highlighted enormous weaknesses in our healthcare infrastructure, proving we need leaders in the legislature to overhaul our healthcare systems to support the needs of Oregonians. We can ensure our response to similar future threats can be effective, organized and compassionate. I will lead a more resilient future for the state through the following action plans:
- Covid-19 has shown that the most effective response to a public health emergency is a unified response. Since the onset of the pandemic, counties across Oregon have responded differently – some better, some worse. I call on the legislature to establish clear protocols and accountability mechanisms to better coordinate efforts at the state and local level.
- Because of social distancing, we have seen the expansion of telemedicine as a way for patients to receive care without risking possible exposure to the coronavirus. There also are significant cost savings with telemedicine, especially for rural Oregonians who lack access to reliable transportation. For these reasons, we must expand telemedicine options through funding and revising regulations. This expansion must also go hand-in-hand with an expansion of broadband internet access in rural areas, which is a key component in my jobs plan.
Healthcare reform must happen in 2021…period. The Covid-19 pandemic has shown with painful clarity that our ability to effectively and rapidly respond to public health threats has deep limitations in the fragmented system that we have today. We must understand the connection between a healthy population and a healthy economy, and unlike my 2020 general election opponent Mr. Boquist who voted against SB 250 in the 2019 Regular Session, work to uphold non-discrimination in healthcare coverage plans issued in the state of Oregon.