PHOENIX — I think I can sum up the advocacy message for rural hospital leaders in two words: Speak up!

Both AHA and Health & Human Services officials implored the 600-plus executives and trustees gathered at the Rural Health Care Leadership Conference to make their voices heard in the nation’s capital on a variety of issues.

If legislators don’t hear directly from constituents, they’ll assume everything is OK, AHA President and CEO Rich Umbdenstock said during a panel discussion yesterday on rural health advocacy issues. A day earlier, Tom Morris, associate administrator, Federal Office of Rural Health Policy, issued virtually the same request.

“If rural leaders can’t present an advocacy front, it will get harder to get the attention of policymakers,” he said.

While he was referencing Congress, Morris said that HHS also needs to hear from rural leaders on key issues. His office is especially interested in hearing rural hospital leaders’ thoughts on alternative payment models and value-based care. The agency is looking for a greater understanding of what kind of reforms may work in rural settings. Hospital leaders can email their comments to ruraldsr@hrsa.gov.

I had the opportunity to interview Morris on a variety of issues facing rural hospitals. Click on the interview below to hear what he had to say about the 340B program, direct supervision for outpatient therapy and more.