More than 60 million Americans live in rural communities in the United States, including more than 13 million children under the age of 18. Rural America is the economic and cultural backbone of our country, but the residents of these areas face many challenges – including lower incomes, limited transportation options, and in many situations, less access to health care services. Thanks to Medicaid, more people in these communities, and others across the country, are getting the care they need to stay healthy and productive.
A new report released last week from the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families looks at the impact of the Medicaid program on rural communities. The report finds that 45 percent of children and 16 percent of adults in rural areas are covered by Medicaid, compared to 38 percent of children and 15 percent of adults in urban areas. The report also notes that between 2008-2009 and 2014-2015, the rate of uninsured adults living in rural areas in states that expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act decreased by 11 percent. Over that same time period, the rate of uninsured children nationally declined from 9 percent to 6 percent.
The analysis further underscores the importance of Medicaid to rural communities, as more than half of those under the age of 18 in rural areas are now covered by Medicaid in fourteen states. In Arkansas and Mississippi, the percentage rises to more than 60. With Medicaid covering such a large share of the younger population, the program plays an integral role in connecting residents with physicians, clinics, hospitals, and other health care providers to keep them healthy. Families depend on Medicaid to not only keep folks healthy, but it also to protect against medical debt and changing economic conditions.
Over the past several years, Medicaid has produced innovative health solutions that increase access and deliver higher quality care. Funding cuts to the Medicaid program would severely limit this progress and have a particularly devastating effect on families and children in rural communities. Less funding would lead to fewer health care providers in small towns.
Medicaid works for rural America – we need to protect these hard-working men and women, who make this country great, and ensure they have access to the health care services they need. We urge America’s policy leaders to understand the value of the Medicaid program for the millions of Americans living in rural communities.