Improved internet connectivity in rural Utah would likely be a benefit for most everyone, but for patients who live far from health care providers, the need is critical.
So said Moab Regional Hospital CEO Jen Sadoff on March 20 when U.S. Rep. John Curtis participated in a joint city and county council meeting prior to meeting with residents in a town hall.
Sadoff was there to let Curtis know how his influence could lead to improved lives for residents in southeastern Utah and the hundreds of thousands of visitors who come here.
She said MRH is a Critical Access Hospital in the “truest sense of the term,” as the closest full-service hospital is 100 miles away.
Sadoff said anything the federal government could do to increase access to the internet would benefit patients who rely on telehealth services in which they can consult with health care professionals telephonically.
She noted MRH is a nonprofit hospital that is “fiercely independent” without any ties to larger hospitals in bigger cities. “There are lots of challenges,” she said, including keeping up with “daily new regulations that can be really challenging” in terms of deciding which employee in what department would be responsible for writing the myriad reports that are required.
She said MRH is the largest employer – more than 220 people are on the payroll – in Grand and San Juan counties, and that many if not most of those jobs are higher paying than elsewhere in the two counties.
She noted struggles in a community with a high rate of substance abuse and low access to mental health care. And many patients are on Medicaid or are altogether uninsured.
She said the hospital provides about $4 million a year in uncompensated care, mostly to residents. She told Curtis that MRH is able to do this largely due to the Medicaid Disproportionate Share program, a federal initiative that requires payments to hospitals that provide care to a large percentage of Medicaid or uninsured people.
Sadoff also asked Curtis to help continue the 340B program, which allows hospitals in low-income areas to obtain discounted prices on drugs. She said the program accounted for $462,000 in 2018, which the hospital leveraged to help care coordinators work with patients outside of the hospital.
“We will watch those two issues,” said Curtis, who noted lawmakers approved long-term funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program this year.
On the media
Curtis took a moment to discuss the U.S. Congress, saying the national media doesn’t fairly report on how it functions. He said the House and Senate passed 67 nonpartisan bills that were headed to President Donald Trump for his signature. He said Republicans and Democrats were very respectful to one another.
Curtis said he looks forward to working with Grand County on a public lands bill similar to what he helped usher through in Emery County, where 1 million acres of public land was subject to legislation this year.
He said the secret was that locals were able to “bring everyone to the table.” He said normally there is bad blood because few people want to compromise. Miners care about only mining, ranchers only ranching, recreationists want only recreation and conservationists only want conservation, he said.
That dynamic didn’t exist in Emery County, he said, and as a result, “nobody got everything they wanted,” but each received quite a bit of what they wanted thanks to compromise.