Rural Health Policy Project

New Georgetown CHIR Case Study Report Examines Policies to Expand Primary Care Access in Rural New Mexico

Pediatrician checking child's lungs

By Maanasa Kona, Jalisa Clark, Megan Houston, and Emma Walsh-Alker with the Georgetown University Center on Health Insurance Reforms

Primary care is a critical tool to prevent illness and death and to improve the equitable distribution of health care in populations. However, access to this important source of care is lacking, especially for many underserved groups, such as communities of color and in rural areas.

In a new report published in collaboration with the Milbank Memorial Fund, CHIR researchers examined stakeholder efforts to expand primary care access in Grant County, New Mexico, which is classified as a primary care health professional shortage area. The authors evaluated efforts to increase the number of primary clinicians, bring outpatient clinics to the community, make primary care affordable, and build relationships between providers and patients.

The case study finds that policy interventions and stakeholder efforts have had a promising impact on primary care access for the population of Grant County. The federally qualified health center and school-based health center models have been invaluable in Grant County, creating a robust network of safety net primary care providers. State and local leadership has also enabled Grant County to develop a successful medical residency program that aims to recruit and retain health professionals in the county. And health insurance coverage, generally obtained through an employer or due to expanded Medicaid eligibility in New Mexico, has increased the affordability of primary care for many low-income residents of Grant County.

Nonetheless, barriers to primary care access persist, especially in the county’s most rural areas. Broadband access needed for telehealth services can be unreliable, and transportation to primary care appointments is often hard to come by. Additionally, many Grant County stakeholders hope that the collaboration, financing, and infrastructure developed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic will continue, providing leadership and resources needed to meet the community’s long-term population health and primary care needs.

You can read the full report here.

[This blog originally appeared on the Georgetown University Center on Health Insurance Reform blog.]