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Medicaid Expansion Will Boost Rural Health Coverage and Economies

With several states close to deciding whether to take advantage of health reform’s

for 2014, policymakers in these states should know that accepting the federal funds to expand Medicaid will bring particularly positive effects to rural America, our new shows.
  • As many as 2.6 million low-income individuals who live in rural America and do not have health insurance could gain coverage if all states expand their Medicaid programs.  This represents 41 percent of low-income non-elderly adults in rural America (see graph).
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  • Medicaid offers beneficiaries in rural areas excellent access to care.  A 2011 survey showed that 84 percent of rural doctors accept new Medicaid patients, compared with 65 percent of urban doctors.
  • Medicaid provides economic stability for rural providers and eases the challenges of delivering care in sparsely populated areas.  Physicians in rural areas receive 20 percent of their revenue from Medicaid, compared with 17 percent for physicians in urban areas.

People who live in rural areas have less access to private health coverage than the rest of the country.  This is because fewer employers in rural areas offer health insurance to their workers, and more workers are self-employed.  States can take a big step toward plugging this coverage gap — while also boosting local economies — by expanding Medicaid in 2014.