On March 23rd, Dr. Caryl Heaton delivered the last in a series of six “lunch and learn” presentations for state legislators, on the topic “Improving Health Care in Maine: What Can We Do?”
Dr. Heaton is a family physician with a special interest in health inequities. She presented her research and ideas for a system of health care for Maine that would address these inequities.
Almost two-thirds of Maine residents live in rural areas. Rural areas have higher rates of poverty, unemployment and economic distress, with lower rates of health insurance coverage and poorer population health. Fifteen Maine counties have health professional shortages in primary care, mental health and dental health.
“It costs more to deliver health care services in rural areas, in part because rural hospitals and providers need to cover the costs of keeping facilities open,” said Dr. Heaton. “Maine needs a payment system for rural hospitals that supports this ‘standby capacity’ and adequately funds primary and emergency care.”
Dr. Heaton outlined strategies to attract more health care providers to rural Maine. She also proposed a unified state health care program that includes global budgets for hospitals. She states, “A unified state health care program would provide better care to more people for less money, making the system more responsive to the patients it serves, without compromising provider payment.”
A summary of Dr Heaton’s talk can be viewed HERE.
A more detailed handout about rural health disparities, including proposals to address these inequities can be downloaded HERE.