Medicaid and Rural America

Medicaid is crucial to our health care system. Medicaid protects long-term care for millions of seniors, helps people with disabilities live independently and provides health care coverage that ensures children can see a doctor when they get sick.
Moreover, America’s rural communities and the unique health care challenges they face make Medicaid vital for rural people and rural places, as the Center for Rural Affairs’ new health care report - Medicaid and Rural America - demonstrates.

Rural poverty rates are generally higher. Fewer rural residents have employer-sponsored health insurance. And rural areas have a higher proportion of older persons in their total population. These stats make Medicaid a vital source of rural health insurance coverage, filling gaps in Medicare and the availability of private insurance.

Medicaid is not the classic “welfare” program critics make it out to be - nearly 65 percent of families with non-elderly Medicaid enrollees have at least one worker in the household, a majority have at least one full-time worker.

But Medicaid has become, in many respects, a rural program. Thirteen percent of urban residents have Medicaid coverage, as compared to 16 percent of rural folk. And 31 out of 33 states with available data had more rural than urban residents eligible for Medicaid.

Medicaid’s importance to rural America’s children, low-income disabled, low-income elderly and pregnant women is particularly striking. We should all remember that, especially when times are tight and legislators and other policy-makers come looking for cuts with the long budget knives.

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