Report Highlights Rural Health Care Challenges

A new report highlights the health care challenges in rural America.

"Rural residents have even more cause to support a public health insurance plan than those living in cities, advocates of such a plan said Thursday," The Omaha World-Herald reports. "The Center for Rural Affairs in Lyons, Neb., and the Center for Community Change issued a joint report highlighting the particular health care challenges faced by those living in rural parts of the country." The report says that one key factor "is the reliance of rural economies on self-employment and small businesses. That creates a lack of employer-sponsored health insurance and means more people are left to seek out their own individual insurance coverage. The report cites statistics showing that rural areas have twice as many underinsured individuals as their urban counterparts and that rural residents pay 22 percent more of their total health care costs than people living in or near metropolitan areas."  Participants in a Capitol Hill event Thursday "said that opinion polling and anecdotal evidence indicate that substantial support for a public option exists among rural residents" (Morton, 10/2).

The Daily Yonder, a daily multi-media source of rural news and commentary, reports on the health disparities between urban and rural America. "The difference between the death rates in rural and urban America has been increasing since 1990. Mortality rates have declined in both the cities and the countryside, but since 1990 urban death rates have improved at twice the rate of rural." The higher rates of rural mortality are "another example of a health penalty paid by rural residents. Last year, researchers at Harvard University found that life expectancy for women living in nearly 1,000 mostly rural counties had declined from 1983 to 1999."

In a 2008 issue of the American Journal of Public Health, Mississippi State University sociologist Arthur Cosby wrote that a "possible explanation for the emergence of the nonmetropolitan mortality penalty is based on the observation that access to health care is the most pervasive health disparity in the nonmetropolitan United States. … If healthcare is becoming significantly more effective in prolonging life, then limited access to healthcare is becoming profoundly harmful to the nonmetropolitan US population, hence, the nonmetropolitan mortality penalty" (Bishop, 9/30).

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