Rural Health News

From the Desk of the Executive Director: Passage of tax bill puts rural priorities at risk

The tax bill secured final passage just as we went to press with our January/February newsletter. The Center opposed the bill and we called on Congress to return the bill to committee for further debate and deliberation. In our initial review of the bill, a few provisions give us pause, including:

From the executive director: tax proposals put rural priorities at risk

As the hotly debated tax bills appear headed toward final votes in the House and Senate this week, the Center for Rural Affairs calls on members of Congress to send the bills back to committee for further debate. The Center opposed both the House and Senate versions of the bill.

In our review of the bills, a few of the provisions that will negatively impact rural people include:

Rural mental health care must not be overlooked

The challenges that try rural communities in nearly all aspects of health care – greater travel distances, fewer providers, heightened health concerns, lower incomes – also stand in the way of the delivery of behavioral and mental health care services. While there is not a greater prevalence of mental illness among rural residents, a significant disparity exists in access to mental health services and care for rural populations.

In the United States, there are nearly 4,900 areas with mental health professional shortages. Of these, nearly 54 percent are classified as rural.

Behavioral and mental health access lags in rural areas

The demographic challenges that try rural communities in nearly all aspects of health care delivery are also prominent in the delivery of behavioral and mental health care services. Rural populations as a whole are older and have fewer financial resources. On average, this population possess higher uninsured and Medicaid rates and more health concerns.

The rural population in Nebraska also follows these trends, as the median age of rural Nebraskans is 44 years of age compared to the urban population median age of 38. In 2015, rural Nebraskans earned $9,400 less in median income than the urban cohort’s median income. Rural Nebraskans also lag in self-reported health status. The rate of uninsured rural Nebraskans is 13 percent compared to 10 percent of urban residents.

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