Thursday, October 29, 2009

Obama team: Health reform would help rural folks

A new report released Wednesday by the Obama administration said two-thirds of Americans living without health care are in rural areas, and would be among those who benefit most from health-care reform legislation. In a conference call with rural reporters, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, right, said individuals, farmers and small businesses would have more choices and better coverage after health insurance reform, including the provision of a public option or other alternative to private insurance, Chuck Haga reports for the Grand Forks Herald in North Dakota. (Associated Press photo)

"The system we have really isn’t working for the 50 million Americans who live in rural areas," Sebelius told reporters. She added that rural Americans are more likely than urban residents to face transportation issues and miss critical preventive care. Sebelius said she "favored a backstop for people who don't have employer-sponsored insurance," Haga reports, and she would be looking closely at the public option part of the reform bill.

One in five farmers is in medical debt, and rural Americans pay for nearly half of their health care costs out of pocket, the report says. Rural populations have only 55 primary-care physicians per 100,000 residents, compared to 72 per 100,000 residents in urban areas. In isolated small rural areas, the rate decreases to 36 physicians per 100,000 residents. (Read more)

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