One in Three Small Town Residents Without Health Coverage by 2019

Release Date: 

03/01/2010

Contact(s): 

Jon Bailey, jonb@cfra.org, Phone: (402) 687-2103 ext. 1013 or John Crabtree, johnc@cfra.org, Phone: (402) 687-2103 ext. 1010
LYONS, NE - According to a recently released Center for Rural Affairs' report, approximately one in three rural Americans living in communities with fewer than 2,500 residents will be uninsured by 2019. Throughout the remainder of rural America, approximately one in four residents will likely go without health care coverage and the annual cost of health care for all rural households will rise from $2,705 to nearly $4,700 on average.
"I live in a rural community with fewer than 1,000 people, which means that if I still have health insurance at the end of this decade, statistically speaking, one of my next door neighbors won't," said John Crabtree, Media Director of the Center for Rural Affairs.  "Rural Americans simply cannot afford Congressional inaction on health care reform."

The Center for Rural Affairs' report - Why Health Care Reform Can't Wait: The Benefits of Health Reform for Rural America, examines both Congressional health care reform proposals and their potential impact on rural families, businesses and communities as well as the rural consequences of inaction and the staggering cost to rural communities if Congress fails to move reform forward.

According to the report, rural Americans are more uninsured (especially in remote rural areas, have higher rates of insurance purchased on the individual market, have lower rates of employer-sponsored insurance and, on average, have lower incomes.  Allowing current health insurance and cost-shifting trends to continue - in other words, allowing the status quo to go unchecked by health care reform legislation - will have significant negative consequences for rural people.

For example, under current trends, the number of rural uninsured will increase over the next decade.  With a rural uninsured rate currently at 20 percent, estimated increases would result in over one quarter (25%) of rural residents being uninsured by 2019.  And the consequences of Congressional inaction could be worse in more remote rural areas - with a current uninsured rate of 23 percent, inaction could result in nearly 32 percent of residents in those rural areas being uninsured by 2019.

A full copy of the report can be viewed and downloaded at: http://www.cfra.org/10/cant-wait.  This is the ninth in a series of Center for Rural Affairs' reports examining crucial health care issues in rural America.  Previous reports in this series can be found on the front page of the Center's website (www.cfra.org).

"After all the rhetoric and political posturing, it is crucial that we take some time to examine how the House and Senate health care reform proposals impact American families.  For rural families, businesses and communities there is much to gain from health care reform as it passed both the House and Senate, and much to lose if final legislation is not enacted," said Jon Bailey, Research Director of the Center for Rural Affairs and author of the report.

"All of the unique rural challenges we have highlighted in this series of reports will only get worse with inaction," added Bailey.

Crucial Findings:

    * Rural Americans stand to obtain greater rates of health insurance coverage and reverse the long-time trend of being more likely to be uninsured than urban residents.

    * The benefits of health insurance coverage are enormous for all uninsured, but particularly for rural people who receive less preventive care and have higher rates of all chronic diseases.  Fewer rural people will die needlessly simply because they lack health insurance.  And rural communities and the already insured in them will benefit from more people being covered.

    * Many barriers that prevent rural residents from obtaining health insurance coverage will be removed.  The generally poorer health of rural people will no longer determine whether health insurance is a possibility.

    * More rural families and businesses will have the opportunity to obtain affordable health care coverage.  A rural population that depends dramatically more on the individual insurance market and has, on average, lower incomes will benefit from the premium assistance provisions of both the House and Senate bills.  Since the House and Senate bills treat family income levels differently, we urge that eventually the bills be combined to include the best provisions of both.

    * Rural Americans will also benefit from decreasing their exposure to all health care costs, both insurance premiums and out-of-pocket costs.  A typical rural family stands to be about $16,000 less at risk of health care costs by 2016.

    * Rural small businesses - the dominant economic driver of economies in many rural places - will benefit from the tax credit assistance offered to provide health insurance to small business employees.  While most rural businesses will be exempt from the mandates imposed by both bills, they will, however, benefit from the tax credits provided businesses to help insure their employees.

"If Congress fails to act, fails to adopt a final version of health care reform, rural people, families and businesses will be stuck with a bad status quo.  Higher costs are facing many rural people - rural communities are at risk of a sicker, more uninsured populations being served by a fragile delivery system if nothing is done," Bailey concluded.

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