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The health of people who live in rural areas is being neglected in current national health policy and in healthcare legislation under discussion in Congress, according to Jeff Smedsrud, CEO of Communicating for America, a non-profit rural advocacy group.
Smedsrud, a health insurance expert and entrepreneur, said that rural Americans face numerous health disparities compared to their urban counterparts.
"According to the Centers for Disease Control, the 15 percent of the U.S. population classified as rural are more likely to die from heart disease, cancer, unintentional injury, chronic lower respiratory disease and stroke than their urban counterparts," Smedsrud said.
He called on Congress to adjust proposed legislation to reflect the fact that rural residents tend to be older and sicker than urban residents, and that insurance choices are dwindling, and often cost more. For example, he said, in 2018 no insurers plan to provide coverage in several mostly-rural counties in Missouri, Ohio, Nevada and Washington. The entire state of Nebraska has only a single insurer under the rules of the Affordable Care Act.
He emphasized that fewer doctors, per capita, serve rural people and quality care is often out of range physically and financially.
Smedsrud outlined a list of ten recommendations for lawmakers and federal regulators to consider as solutions to remedy the health care gap in rural America. Scroll through the slides to see them.