Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg on Friday unveiled a set of policies intended to boost health care access in rural communities, including new visa rules for immigrant doctors and expanded teleheath investments.
“We need to lift rural communities up as places of opportunity, both for this generation and future ones,” said Mr. Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana. “That work begins with securing the health of all rural residents.”
Mr. Buttigieg’s plan would boost federal incentives to try to encourage doctors to work in rural and tribal areas. It would expand a program that waives certain visa requirements for foreign doctors, and eliminate caps on certain visas so that immigrant doctors who commit to working in an “underserved” area for five years can get green cards.
The plan would also expand the types of care that can be reimbursed for telehealth services and allow health providers to be reimbursed for virtual treatments of patients at their homes.
Among other priorities, the plan would also increase Medicare reimbursement rates for providers working in “underserved” areas, redefine rural health centers that only provide emergency and outpatient care so they can receive Medicare payments, and expand paramedicine programs, where emergency workers also assist in primary health care service.
Mr. Buttigieg also wants to ensure access to a “full range” of reproductive health care and family planning services in rural areas through priorities like increased funding for Title X family planning.
The plan also touts a “Medicare For All Who Want it” program that would make a “Medicare-type” insurance plan available for anyone.
Mr. Buttigieg’s campaign released his plan as he and other candidates are swinging through Iowa this weekend.
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