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10.14.2020 / Press Release

New Report, Survey Results, and Consumer Stories Highlight Health Care in Rural America

Families across America are facing an uncertain future, with concerns about health care front and center. Pandemic-fueled anxieties are driving conversations about the quality of health care, access, prescription drug costs, and surprise medical bills. These conversations are happening at kitchen tables across America—including rural America—yet, historically, policymakers do not give rural areas adequate attention.

The State of Rural Healtha new report from Families USA, aims to underscore rural Americans’ attitudes about their health and livelihoods. The report identifies the current demographics of rural America, health care and economic challenges, and COVID-19’s impacts on rural communities. It concludes with critical national policy recommendations that address rural America’s health care concerns and reduce health disparities in rural communities during the pandemic and onward.

Survey Results
The report is augmented by surveys Families USA Action commissioned Hart Research Associates to conduct about how people in rural America feel about health care and what issues are most important to them. The first survey participants came from rural areas in several states — including Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio— and answered questions on issues such as Medicare, affordability, access, the economy, employment, and COVID-19. The results of that survey are captured in this presentation and summarized here.

  • Half of the rural survey respondents choose COVID-19 or health care as one of their top two health care issues.
  • When they were asked to volunteer the health issues that matter most to them, they emphasize affordability of coverage, COVID-19, and Medicare.
  • Their number one issue is jobs and the economy. Health care and COVID-19 both have major effects on jobs and the economy in rural communities.

A second survey was conducted in Southern states (Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia) to compare insights with data from the first survey. The results of that survey are summarized here

  • On a scale of 0-10 of importance, “0” being “Not Important At All” and 10 being “Extremely Important,” 71 % of survey respondents say reducing prescription drug costs is extremely important.
  • On a scale of 0-10 of importance, “0” being “Not Important At All” and 10 being “Extremely Important,” 69% say making sure there is affordable health insurance coverage for everyone who needs it is extremely important.
  • On a scale of 0-10 of importance, “0” being “Not Important At All” and 10 being “Extremely Important,” 68% say slowing and stopping the spread of COVID-19 is extremely important.

The report features challenges faced by consumers living in rural communities, including Tamara Hamilton of Mancos, Colorado (page 6), and Tara Blackburn, who lives on a Native American reservation in California (page 8).

In Tamara’s corner of Colorado, insurance premiums are higher than anywhere else in the state. Every doctor in the county is on the same network, so there is no competition. And medical appointments are extremely backlogged in her area—often requiring booking four months out.

Tara has had health concerns that her rural community cannot address. Although there is a health clinic and a dental clinic nearby, they are unable to provide all of the care the community needs. Two years ago, two abscesses in Tara’s mouth burst. The dental clinic was not set up to meet Tara’s needs, but after she spent several hours waiting in pain, they were able to finally see her. They couldn’t give her the root canals she needed, but they gave her the necessary antibiotics to recover.

For more information, visit Families USA’s rural health care resources page.