VIDEO: Bustos Questions HHS Secretary on Coronavirus Preparations in Rural America

Secretary of Health and Human Services Azar thanks Bustos for her leadership

CLICK HERE for a video of Congresswoman Bustos questioning Secretary Azar

Washington – Today, in a House Appropriations Subcommittee hearing to review the President’s FY2021 Budget Request for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (IL-17) questioned Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex M. Azar II on the Administration’s efforts to prepare local providers for the coronavirus and address the issue of health care provider shortages across rural America.

“As CDC officials warn Americans that the coronavirus is likely to spread, all Americans deserve a strong advocate to make sure local providers are prepared to face this threat head-on,” said Congresswoman Bustos, a member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. “That’s why I asked Secretary Azar of HHS directly what steps are being taken to ensure we are ready to protect the health of Illinoisans – including those living in small towns and rural areas. I’ll continue to work to address the unique health care challenges facing the district, like provider shortages, so hardworking families have access to affordable, quality care.”

Yesterday, officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned of a coronavirus outbreak in the United States. As a result, Congresswoman Bustos questioned Secretary Azar on what HHS will do to help prepare local health providers for an expected increase in cases to ensure they are well equipped to respond and treat patients. In Illinois, there have been two confirmed cases of coronavirus.

Watch Congresswoman Bustos question Secretary Azar on the coronavirus HERE

Also in today’s hearing, Secretary Azar thanked Congresswoman Bustos for her leadership on rural health after Congresswoman Bustos hand-delivered her key priorities to Secretary Azar during a small bipartisan, bicameral roundtable discussion on National Rural Health Day.

One of Congresswoman Bustos’ top priorities is ending provider shortages, which she continued to push for today when she asked Secretary Azar how HHS will work to recruit and train health care providers since the President’s proposed budget cuts funding nearly in half for Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) workforce training programs, which are meant to increase the number of health care providers across the county. In year-end funding bills, Congresswoman Bustos included a provision that would require HRSA to examine how to better recruit and train primary care physicians to address shortages of providers.

Watch Congresswoman Bustos question Secretary Azar on provider shortages HERE


Congresswoman Bustos has been a longtime advocate for improving rural health. Most recently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced this month that the Rural Health Liaison, a position created by Congresswoman Bustos in the 2018 Farm Bill, will be filled by Betty Ann Bryce. The Rural Health Liaison is responsible for promoting the availability of rural health resources and providing technical assistance or guidance to USDA field offices on how to best serve their communities. In addition, the position would coordinate with other government agencies on rural health issues, including HHS.

Watch Congresswoman Bustos’ full questioning of Secretary Azar by clicking HERE.