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BLACK: My understanding of how crippling hospital closures are for rural communities doesn’t come from working in Congress. It comes from working as an emergency room nurse. A heart attack doesn’t wait for a half an hour ambulance ride. I know it is critical for our rural communities to have access to care when every second counts. Across our state, rural communities are quite literally losing their lifelines. Eight of Tennessee’s rural hospitals have shut down since Obamacare was enacted, with several more on the verge of closing. Two ways to help rural hospitals is to address the lack of fairness in the area wage index and increase the Essential Access Hospital payments made to hospitals for uncompensated care. Both of these ideas would go along way toward stabilizing health care in rural Tennessee. As governor I will be an advocate for community health centers. The Lewis Health Center in Hohenwald and the Putnam County Health Department in Cookeville prove every day that we can think outside the box to solve health care access issues. Recently I sat down with the leaders of Ballad Health in East Tennessee and heard about all of the innovation that can take place when the government gets out of the way and accepts different models than the creation of a few national health care systems. It’s a challenging time for hospitals, and as governor, I will be an advocate and partner working towards a solution for rural hospitals.
BOYD: As commissioner of Economic and Community Development, I saw firsthand how devastating it is to rural communities when they lose access to health care services. As governor, I will do everything I can to protect and enhance health care access and quality care for Tennesseans in rural communities. The rural hospital represents much more than health care delivery. It’s a job creator, beacon of hope and often the place of last resort for the sick and vulnerable. As governor, I will tirelessly advocate for block grants to our state, so that Tennesseans can make decisions for Tennesseans, not Washington. By doing so, I believe we can find ways to provide better treatment for more people.
HARWELL: Health care and medical science have advanced so much over the last couple of decades that many of the proce-