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Rural Demographics Raise Concerns About Health Care Availability

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This post is from the Spring 2012 edition of B. Magazine

There is an allure to country living. Rural residents revel in songbirds, vibrant night skies and a pace of life that rewards quiet and solitude. But like their urban brethren, when health issues arise country residents desire quality, accessibility and affordable care. Unfortunately, statistics show that compounding circumstances are giving rise to a crisis in rural health care.

A recent United Health Group study reveals that in remote areas of the United States, 18 percent of residents are now more than 65 years old, versus the 13 percent national average. Families in rural areas are disproportionately living below the federal poverty level, and people living outside of metropolitan areas have a higher rate of chronic illnesses (hypertension, diabetes, cancer and arthritis) induced, in part, by increased smoking and obesity. The grim picture? Rural residents in our country are older and sicker than urban residents.

These factors alone are enough to have a large impact on insurance coverage and availability in rural areas. To complicate matters, nearly one third of the older rural population is utilizing Medicare or Medicaid as its primary source of coverage versus one quarter of that population in urban areas. Rural Americans are more likely to be uninsured compared to city dwellers, and private insurance coverage rates in rural areas lag behind their counterparts in urban areas by 6 percent. Continue Reading