Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Advocates divided on impact of health reform in rural areas, where being uninsured is more likely

"While some view the Affordable Care Act as a welcome reprieve for rural communities with limited access to health care providers, others say it’s a hasty overreach that could stifle competition and raise premium rates. And it’s a disparity of opinion that not only exists between Democrats and Republicans in Congress, but also among different rural interests," reports Agri-Pulse, a Washington newsletter. About 20 percent of uninsured Americans live in rural areas, but only 16 percent of the population is rural.

Jon Bailey, research director at the Nebraska-based Center for Rural Affairs, "says the new federal insurance marketplace was practically created for people in rural areas," Agri-Pulse reports. Bailey told the newsletter, "Rural people will have more choices, and the marketplace might be more competitive. The affordability of insurance will determine the success of the primary goals of the Affordable Care Act – enrollment in health insurance exchanges to increase insurance coverage and reduce the nation’s uninsured."

The Nebraska Farm Bureau, which says most farmers and ranchers purchase insurance on the open market, is conducting a survey that so far indicates premium rates will increase for its members, Agri-Pulse reports. Jordan Dux, who directs national affairs for the bureau, told the newsletter, "We’ve never had this amount and this significant amount of comments on an issue ever before. The majority of those are seeing increases, some are significant increases."

How much Obamacare has to do with those increases is unclear, and it's not beyond insurance companies to give it all the blame. "With as massive as a piece of legislation as this is, I think there’s confusion nationwide," Dux said. "There are so many different pieces to this I don’t think there’s a clear understanding from the folks in Washington or the health insurance companies.”

Enrollment will continue until March 31, but to have insurance that starts Jan. 1, enrollment must be completed by Dec. 15. Agri-Pulse is subscription-only, but is available for a free trial by clicking here.

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