Rural America is Underinsured

White House meeting held on rural health care.

Published on: May 5, 2009

A report issued by the Center for Rural Affairs confirms what most in agriculture already knew: rural Americans are more likely to be uninsured or underinsured than urban Americans. The center's researcher, Jon Bailey, presented the report during a Monday morning meeting at the White House between rural health care stakeholders and Administration officials.

Bailey said with an economic foundation of small businesses, self-employment, and low wage work, rural communities are not well served by a health insurance system that relies on employer-based coverage. He said many more rural families are forced to purchase from the individual insurance market where they all too often wind up underinsured, with coverage that costs too much and provides too little. Those who cannot afford the significantly more expensive individual insurance packages must go without or rely on public insurance.

In fact, the report says rural residents were found to be twice as likely to be underinsured as urban resident; 8% of the general population depends on individual policies with reduced benefits and high deductibles, but 33% of farmers and ranchers rely on such policies; and 25% of non-corporate farms and ranches carry medical debt and 25% of that number report that medical expenses contribute to their financial problems.

National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson also participated in the White House roundtable discussion on rural health care. Johnson said rural communities are on the front lines of today's health care crisis and today's economic conditions do not provide the leisure of waiting any longer to address the situation.