"Even before the pandemic, the health-care systems that serve rural Americans were in decline; rural hospitals were closing their doors, and the medical workforce was shrinking. This year, as the coronavirus outbreak has made its way from major cities to rural America, threats to the rural health-care infrastructure have only increased," Will Stone reports for NPR. During the pandemic, "One in every four rural U.S households have been unable to get medical care for serious problems. Among those households that had trouble getting care, more than half reported that a family member experienced negative health consequences as a result."
That's according to a new nationwide poll conducted by NPR, Harvard University's T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. It gathered data through interviews with more than 3,400 adults across the nation (543 of them were rural) and produced reports on how the pandemic affected U.S. households overall, households in major cities, households by race and ethnicity, households with children, and rural households. Here are some of the top findings from the report on rural households:
On financial and job issues:
- 42% report facing serious financial problems during the pandemic.
- 31% say they've used up all or most of their savings.
- 21% report serious problems paying credit cards, loans or other debt.
- 10% report not having any household savings prior to the pandemic.
- 43% say that at least one adult in the household has lost their job, lost their business, been furloughed, or had their wages or hours reduced.
- Among rural households with job or wage losses during the pandemic, 66% report facing serious financial problems.
- 85% of Black or Latino rural households report facing serious financial problems during the pandemic, compared to 36% of white rural households.
- 24% said someone in their household had been unable to get medical care for a serious problem when they needed it during the pandemic, and 56% of respondents who were unable to get care report negative health consequences as a result.
- When asked potential reasons they could not access medical care, 46% said they couldn't get an appointment during the hours they needed, 40% said they couldn't find a doctor who would see them, 39% said they could not afford health care, 25% said the health care provider was too far or difficult to get to, and 12% said they couldn't find a doctor who would take their health insurance.
- 53% report someone in their household has a chronic illness.
- 42% report someone in their household is at a high risk of developing a serious illness from covid-19 because of their age or underlying medical conditions. Of those households, 33% report that someone in their household has been unable to get medical care for a serious problem when they needed it during the pandemic. 61% of that subset reported negative health consequences as a result of being unable to access care. The numbers for inability to access needed health care and resulting negative consequences are nearly the same for households with a chronically ill person.
- 46% of rural households report using telehealth since the beginning of the pandemic.
- 34% of rural households report having either no high-speed internet connection at home or problems with their connection that interfere with their ability to do jobs or schoolwork.
- 40% of rural households with children say they have no high-speed internet connection at home or serious problems with their internet connection that interfere with doing schoolwork or jobs.