Premera Grants $10.5 Million To Improve Rural Health In Washington

Jul 31, 2019

Jeff Bell from the Empire Health Foundation board (left) and WSU College of Medicine Dean John Tomkowiak respond at a press conference Wednesday.
Credit Doug Nadvornick/SPR

Premera Blue Cross says it’s giving more than $10 million to two organizations that are working to expand the physician work force and medical capacity in rural eastern Washington.

Premera CEO Jeff Roe announced today [Wednesday] that it would grant $5.5 million during the next four years to Washington State University’s College of Medicine.

Some of that will support a family medicine residency program under development at Pullman Regional Hospital. The rest will develop future WSU residency programs in rural areas.

“Based on the principle that by doing so where people train, they will hopefully remain and the numbers suggest that that’s the case," Roe said.

Studies show that medical residents will often stay and practice in the areas where they went to medical school and/or did their post-graduation residency training.

The other five million dollars from Premera is awarded to the Empire Health Foundation to help rural providers get equipment they need to treat patients. This is Empire board member Jeff Bell.

“There are capital needs in these communities," Bell said. "I have had the opportunity to travel to many of the hospitals and clinics around the state and I know first hand of the inequities and deficiencies of these hospitals face. These are wonderful people doing great work and delivering the best they can, but there’s some hurdles that they have, some inequities. So this money will go a long way in addressing some of their immediate needs.”

Premera announced last year that it would invest $100 million during the next five years to improve access to care in rural communities in Washington and Alaska.