Place matters in the United States. Access to affordable high-quality healthcare depends upon where you live. Throughout rural America, nearly 50 million people face challenges in accessing health care. The past several decades have consistently shown higher rates of poverty, mortality, and limited access to a primary health care provider in rural areas. With the recent economic downturn, there is potential for an increase in many of the healthcare disparities and access concerns that are already elevated in rural communities. High poverty rates and job loss in the current economic recession highlight the challenges of accessing health care and rising health care costs in rural areas. Rates of poverty are higher, with fifteen percent
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The high costs of healthcare hit farmers particularly hard. One in five insured farmers had medical debt, and in one state, farmers who purchased an individual healthcare plan spent an average of $2,117 more than their colleagues who were able to purchase through a group plan. As a result, rural adults are more likely than urban adults report having deferred care because of cost (15% versus 13%). This problem is worse among rural minority populations, who are twice as likely to have deferred care in the past year as rural whites. Rural area residents are often placed in a lower socioeconomic status that results in healthcare challenges and those challenges are so significant they pose a moral hazard to the rural population. An example of those challenges is travel-geographic complications, limitations in training and education, challenges to confidentiality, service access restrictions, and overlapping roles for patients and providers. (Chipp, Johnson, Brems, Warner, Roberts). In addition, higher mortality rates and virtually no hospice care for end-of-life patients exist.
Along with comprehensive and affordable coverage, access to high quality providers is also a key component of obtaining high quality care. Rural areas continue to suffer from a lack of diverse providers for their communities’ health care needs. There were