One of the roles of government is to provide solutions to public problems that cannot be profitably solved by private industry. To me, health care in small rural communities is such a problem. Sen. Bernie Sanders’s solution — government medical care for these communities — is workable and has precedent in our nation’s history.
In the 1940s and ’50s, America’s public transit systems became unprofitable for private companies. Many cities and towns were left without bus or rail service until local governments took them over to provide service for their citizens. In 1964, Congress created the Urban Mass Transportation Administration to assist municipalities to transition their bus and rail services from private hands to public ownership.
By the 1990s, the federal government, local governments and private industry had created public-private partnerships to provide transit services to growing urban, suburban and some rural areas. The same progression can occur with health care by promoting government health care services in rural areas now and looking for private industry opportunities to participate in the service that benefits the local governments and private industry.
Another federal government agency is not needed in this case. Congress can fully fund Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC) to expand their operations and services in rural counties and provide health care. These centers are partially funded under Section 330 of the Public Health Service Act.
The community health care model is a proven system of health care delivery all over the world. A public-private partnership of community health clinics and government funding can provide the health care services citizens in rural areas need.