Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Medicaid becoming a rural program in many ways

Medicaid has become a "rural program" in many ways, Jon Bailey of the Nebraska-based Center for Rural Affairs reports. The most recent data show 16 percent of rural people are enrolled in Medicaid, compared to 13 percent of those in urban areas. In 31 of 35 states, more rural residents than urban are eligible for Medicaid. Bailey writes the program "plays a critical role in providing necessary health care for millions of Americans," and is "critical for rural people and rural places."

Characteristics of rural places that make Medicaid important to them include high poverty rates, older populations and low rates of employer-sponsored health insurance, Bailey writes. Also, Medicaid is important to the rural health-care system because providers often rely on Medicaid payments to cover treatment costs. Medicaid dollars also contribute to rural economic growth by creating health-care jobs.

Children, low-income disabled people, low-income elderly and pregnant women are most reliant on the program in rural areas. About 35 percent of rural children under 18 are enrolled in Medicaid, and the rates of children with public insurance is highest in rural areas in 20 states. Rates of disability in rural places are 80 percent higher than in urban, and almost two-thirds of working-age adults living in consistent poverty have at least one disability, "making more rural residents with disabilities eligible for Medicaid," Bailey writes. (Read more)

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