CLICK HERE for a photo of Congresswoman Bustos and Secretary Azar

WASHINGTON – Yesterday evening, on National Rural Health Day, Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (IL-17) hand-delivered key rural health priorities for Illinois’ 17th Congressional District to Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex M. Azar II. She was part of a small bipartisan, bicameral group of members invited by Secretary Azar to discuss rural health issues. As a member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, Congresswoman Bustos sits on the subcommittee that oversees the Department of Health and Human Services. In the meeting with Secretary Azar, she raised the need to address critical rural health issues like long drive times to see a doctor, shortages of health care providers or even a loss of health services – as well as offer solutions to them.

“It’s vital we address the unique health care needs of our rural communities and I stressed that to Secretary Azar directly,” Congresswoman Bustos said. “We cannot allow issues like long drive times, provider shortages or loss of services to go overlooked or unaddressed. That’s why I welcomed the opportunity to bring the experiences of our region to the table on National Rural Health Day. I’ll continue to fight for solutions that improve the lives of hardworking Illinoisans and make health care more accessible and affordable.”

Congresswoman Bustos hand-delivered a letter, as well as a two-page document that further outlines legislation she has advocated for to Secretary Azar. You can view both HERE or read the letter below:

November 21, 2019


Alex M. Azar II


U.S. Department of Health & Human Services

200 Independence Avenue, S.W.

Washington, D.C. 20201

Dear Secretary Azar:

Thank you for hosting this discussion today—on National Rural Health Day—to hear perspectives on the health care issues facing rural America and their potential solutions.

Illinois’ 17th Congressional District covers 7,000 square miles of Northwest and Central Illinois. Eighty-five percent of the towns are 5,000 people or fewer, while sixty percent are 1,000 people or fewer. With that comes unique rural health challenges, like long drive times to see a doctor, shortages of health care providers or even loss of health services – just to name a few.

For example, at a hospital in my district, it took seven years to hire one physician. Unfortunately, data shows that such issues are far from uncommon. In 2017, Henderson Country, Illinois, had a patient to clinician ratio of 6,995 to one. In comparison, in 2017 Cook and Peoria counties in Illinois had a ratio of roughly 1,200 to one. In addition, our rural communities continue to face closures that require patients to drive further for care. After the closure of a kidney care center in Warren County, Illinois, rural patients must now drive greater distances for dialysis services. Of note, for some patients this includes driving to a three-hour session seven days a week.

We can do more to reverse these trends. That is why I introduced several pieces of legislation that I believe we can work on together to tackle these pressing issues. For instance, The Social Determinants Accelerator Act provides up to $25 million in grants to communities to develop a plan to fight social factors—like provider shortages and long drive times—that lead to negative health outcomes.

Enclosed you will find a two-page document that further outlines the type of legislation that I believe we can work on together to improve health care in rural America. I look forward to partnering with you on these crucial issues.



Cheri Bustos

Member of Congress