Monday, August 20, 2012

Columnist points out rural America's heavy reliance on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid

The latest offering from syndicated agricultural columnist Alan Guebert, right, delves directly into politics, starting with Mitt Romney's choice of U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan as a running mate. The Wisconsin Republican's "biggest reform ideas take dead aim at America’s three costliest social programs, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security," Guebert writes. "Any change in either or all will have profound effects across farm country because rural America relies more heavily on all three than the nation’s urban areas. According to a November 2011 study by the National Academy of Social Insurance, 9.3 percent of 'total personal income' in rural counties comes from Social Security. By contrast, Social Security is just 5 percent of total personal income in urban America.

"Moreover," Guebert notes, "Social Security is the economic lifeblood of many rural counties. For example, Orangeburg County, S.C., gained $232 million of income -- or about $1 billion in overall economic activity -- in 2009 through Social Security. The story is the same for Medicare and Medicaid’s impact on farm and ranch country. While one in six, or 49 million, Americans, receive Medicare benefits, 12 million -- or one in four of those beneficiaries -- live in rural America. And that number is growing; 15 percent of rural America is 65 years old or more while just 12 percent of urban Americans are senior citizens."

Medicaid covers 16 percent of all rural residents and 35 percent of all rural children up to 18. The urban numbers, respectively, are 13 percent and 28 percent. Six out of 10 rural nursing home residents receive some form of Medicaid, and it is estimated that 56 percent of all rural physician income and 60 percent of all rural hospital cash flow is tied to Medicare and Medicaid. (To see all the documents used in this story, go here.)

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