Healthcare Reform Could Lower Insurance Costs for Rural Consumers

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HIL-thumb1As we continue to assess the Affordable Care Act’s impact on all facets of the healthcare industry, we turn now to the impact reform is having on rural care. According to Nebraska’s Center for Rural Affairs, health insurance and medical care could actually be cheaper for rural-based consumers, which would be an incredible reversal on history, since rural residents tend to earn less, yet pay more for healthcare.

M.L. Johnson of the Associated Press outlined several areas of healthcare reform that could positively impact rural communities, including the provision of “subsidies for health insurance purchased through the new online exchanges, which will allow people to comparison shop for coverage beginning Oct. 1…capping out-of-pocket costs for those with the lowest incomes…[reducing] costs and [increasing] access to medical care down the line by encouraging more doctors, nurses, and other providers to work in rural areas…[and] those who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but less than 400 percent of the poverty level — $45,000 for an individual and $94,000 for a family of four — can receive premium subsidies for insurance purchased through the online exchanges.”

The impact this will have on the farming community alone must not be underestimated, Roger Johnson, president of the National Farmers Union, said, pointing to the fact that “for many years the leading cause of farm bankruptcies was medical bills because many farmers couldn’t afford to buy individual policies.”

According to Brock Slabach, senior vice president for member services at the National Rural Health Association, “others opted for less expensive policies with high deductibles that…sometimes wasn’t much better than having no insurance at all.”

Slabach said, “I see that all the time, farm families who have to work a second job so that they can provide insurance to their families.”

Under healthcare reform, rural families can purchase individual policies “comparable to group plans”… “even if they don’t qualify for premium subsidies.” Furthermore, insurances expenses could also be lowered by the reform provision that caps out-of-pocket costs, Johnson writes.

Bailey advises families to “research what’s offered in your state and what works best for yourself and your family and what it costs and what works best for your pocketbook and your healthcare needs” once Oct. 1 rolls around since “every family, every individual is going to be a little bit different because of their circumstances.”

To the healthcare executives who are in rural communities, how will the lowered cost of insurance among your patient populations impact the quality of care you’ll be able to provide? Do you see the above as a step forward in improving rural healthcare in America?

-by Pete Fernbaugh

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