Rural Health News

More than 2 million Americans are unable to access health insurance

Meet Blair Nelson. She recently went to the doctor for a physical and was forced to pay out of pocket, which took away money she had already allocated for other household bills.

Blair is a student, works part-time, and is one of more than 2.6 million American adults who are unable to access health insurance because she falls into the coverage gap. She makes too much income to qualify for Medicaid, but too little to be eligible for the tax credits that make private health insurance affordable.

In support of expanding Medicaid

In my work, l meet people who are unable to obtain health insurance on a regular basis. Due to lack of coverage, needed health care services are routinely delayed or denied in ways that significantly impact patient outcomes.

Such gaps in care are not only a threat to quality of life for thousands of individual Nebraskans, but also prevent our healthcare system from improving, and hurt our state’s economy.

Tell your U.S. House Representative to cosponsor the Save Rural Hospitals Act

76 rural hospitals have closed since 2010. According to the National Rural Health Association, about one-third of U.S. rural hospitals are at risk of closure due to financial distress. Much of this financial distress in linked to lowered Medicare payments due to sequestration and bad debt from unreimbursed care, which result in about 35 percent of Critical Access Hospitals (CAH) facing negative operating margins.

Mapping the Coverage Gap

There was much discussion last spring in Nebraska Legislature about whether we should find a way to help people in our state who fall into the health coverage gap to finally afford health insurance. Unfortunately, our state leaders again failed to capitalize on a solution to this ongoing problem.

Rural Behavioral and Mental Health Still Overlooked

In 2009 I co-authored a Center for Rural Affairs’ report detailing the critical, but overlooked, need for mental and behavioral health services in rural areas.

The report tied inadequate rural mental and behavioral health care services to a lack of affordable, meaningful health insurance coverage. It concluded this “problem must be addressed for prosperous rural families, economies and communities.”

Despite adoption of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, rural America still lacks mental and behavioral health services. Rural residents have a higher percentage of all categories of mental illnesses, from a serious mental illness to psychological distress to major depression. Nearly one-in-five rural residents experience some mental illness.

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