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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

HHS Sec. Sebelius Releases New Report on Rural America and Health Insurance Reform

Yesterday, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Senator Kay Hagan of North Carolina held a conference call to discuss a new report, More Choices, Better Coverage: Health Insurance Reform and Rural America. The report examines the health care status quo in rural communities and the importance of enacting health insurance reform. It's available online at www.HealthReform.gov.

“Americans who live in rural communities have a harder time finding the doctor they need and getting the care they deserve and their health suffers,” said Sebelius. “Americans in rural communities also face some of the nation’s highest rates of obesity and high blood pressure and they struggle to get affordable health care. Reform will improve access to high quality care in rural communities and help give all Americans the stable, secure care they need.”

“People in rural North Carolina and rural America are more likely to be uninsured and have more difficulty accessing health care,” Hagan said. “Rural areas in North Carolina have a 33 percent higher mortality rate from diabetes and a 60 percent higher mortality rate from heart disease. Health care reform will improve the quality, accessibility and affordability of health care for people across rural America.

"I have said all along that I support a backstop option for people without access to employer-sponsored health care. I applaud Leader Reid for including a sensible, compromise proposal that will help move our health care reform efforts forward – and will help create options for people in rural areas. I am committed to working with my colleagues on a final reform bill that will bring security and stability to American families and will not add one dime to our federal deficit, now or in the future.”

The report notes:

  • One in five uninsured Americans -- 8.5 million people -- lives in a rural area and uninsurance rates are higher for rural minority populations, the rural poor, and those with less than a high school education.

  • Rural Americans pay for nearly half of their health care costs out of their own pocket, and one out of every five farmers is in medical debt.

  • There were only 55 primary care physicians per 100,000 residents in rural areas in 2005, compared with 72 per 100,000 in urban areas. The rate decreases to 36 per 100,000 in isolated, small rural areas. As a result, nearly 50 million rural Americans lack access to a primary care provider because of shortages in their communities and 12 million seniors live in areas where they do not have adequate access to a primary care provider.

The report explains that health insurance reform will create a health insurance exchange program allowing families to shop for health insurance coverage that is right for them as well as provide tax credits for small businesses to continue offering coverage for their employees. Health care quality will improve through the development of national standards and the coverage of preventative screenings for chronic diseases like diabetes and cancer under health insurance plans. Reform will also provide scholarships, grants, and loan repayments to compel providers to practice in underserved areas so that all Americans can have access to health care.

To learn more about how health insurance reform will help Americans in rural communities and to read the complete report, visit www.HealthReform.gov.

October 28, 2009 at 10:53 AM in Healthcare, Obama Health Care Reform, Physicians, Rural Issues | Permalink