This morning Nancy-Ann DeParle, Director of the White House Office of Health Reform, is meeting with rural Americans in the fourth in a series of White House Health Care Stakeholder Discussions.
- Nearly one in five of the uninsured – 8.5 million people – live in rural areas.
- Rural residents pay on average for 40% of their health care costs out of their own pocket, compared with the urban share of one-third.
- In a multi-state survey, one in five insured farmers had medical debt.
Late Update: Rebecca Adelman of HHS reports back on the meeting:
Health care in rural America has been a significant topic of conversation at every health reform stakeholder event held at the White House over the past three months, and for good reason. Rural Americans are being hit especially hard by the skyrocketing cost of health care, and many live hundreds of miles away from the physicians and hospitals they need for treatment. Earlier today, representatives from rural communities met with White House office of Health Reform Director Nancy-Ann DeParle to discuss the state of the health care system outside America’s largest cities.
There are nearly 50 million people living in rural America who face unique challenges accessing quality and affordable health care. Rural Americans are more likely to live in poverty, and have fewer providers in their communities. They report more health problems, and are more likely to be without health insurance than citizens living in urban areas. They are also more likely to delay medical treatment because they cannot afford it. According to a new study released today on www.healthreform.gov
, nearly one in five of the uninsured – 8.5 million people – live in rural areas.
The meeting participants gathered at the White House included farmers, ranchers, teachers, and fishermen, who spoke of their shared difficulty affording health care. Dr. Wayne Meyers, a pediatrician and organic farmer in rural Maine, summed it up by saying: "For most rural people, cost is the bottom line…health care costs are eating us alive." Many participants expressed frustration that farmers who spend their lives growing healthy food for the nation are struggling to afford medical care they need to live healthy lives. Jon Bailey, Director of the Rural Research and Analysis Program, spoke to the difficulty many small businesses are having in rural areas as they attempt to remain profitable while paying huge sums for health care coverage. Bailey said, "If we don’t solve the health care issues of small businesses, and farmers and ranchers and fishermen in rural areas, we won’t have an entrepreneurial economy, and that means we won’t have much of an economy in rural America."
Mary Wakefield, Administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Congressman Mike Ross (D-AR) were both on hand to listen. Congressman Ross closed the meeting by thanking Nancy-Ann DeParle and President Obama for their attention to rural health care issues, and for bringing together a diverse group from outside Washington, D.C. to share their experiences and concerns. DeParle made a point to emphasize the President’s commitment to enacting comprehensive health reform that will help rural Americans by lowering costs, guaranteeing choice of doctors and plans, and assuring quality and affordable coverage for all Americans.