Rural America Would Reap Benefits From Public Option
by RDemocrat, Thu Aug 06, 2009 at 08:22:08 PM EDT
We all know that the far-right is trying to whip up a frenzy in the coming months at any forum that discusses healthcare reform. Many of them may come in rural districts, and against moderate and even "Blue-Dog" Democrats. However, despite what any piece of propoganda or any crazed protester may shout, the truth of the matter is that in rural areas many people are left out by the current system and a public option would be greatly beneficial for rural areas.
This is not a talking point lifted from a talk show or a politician. It is a fact. The Center for Rural Affairs has been advocating for and studying policy on rural America since 1973. They summed up why they decided to study this issue:
The inclusion of a public health insurance plan in health care reform legislation as an option for individuals, families, and businesses promises to be one of the most controversial and crucial decisions made by Congress. With the myriad health care challenges facing rural people and rural communities, the decision on whether to include a public health insurance plan option has significant consequences for rural America. In fact, rural America has much to gain or lose from the public health insurance plan decision.
Their findings are a virtual debunking of just about every right-wing talking point that will be shoved down the throats of rural America on Television and in newspapers.
First, what about all the small businesses a public option is going to destroy??:
The cost of health insurance is crushing the self-employed and microbusinesses that form the bulk of the rural economy. Nearly three-quarters of the rural uninsured own or work in small businesses, and cost/affordability is by far the most cited reason for being uninsured.
The availability of affordable and quality health insurance is the primary barrier to entrepreneurship - the most effective rural development strategy - reaching its potential for rural people and rural communities.
A public health insurance plan could lead to significantly lower costs to businesses and households. Models show public health insurance plan premiums would be 16 to 30 percent lower than private plans, and health care cost savings would be up to 41 percent greater with a public health insurance plan.
Another finding in the study is a point I have made along the way. With the idea of mandates in rural American and indeed America as a whole we simply must have a public option to include mandates. How will rural Americans who can't afford insurance now be mandated to do so without any real competition to choose from??:
Most drafts of proposed health care reform bills in Congress contain individual and business mandates to carry or provide health insurance; such mandates - if they depend on the current health insurance system that does not work well for many rural people as the only health insurance option - are unlikely to address unique rural challenges.
Rural people and rural areas suffer from economic concentration, consolidation, and a lack of choice in many economic areas, including health insurance. Research has shown that 94 percent of statewide health insurance markets meet the U.S. Department of Justice standard of "highly concentrated" for antitrust purpose. Concentrated health insurance markets affect smaller, predominately rural states more than larger states.
Indeed, rural Americans have a unique set of circumstances that cause their rates to be as high or higher than many other segments of the country:
Workplace characteristics more common in rural areas such as self-employment, small business ownership and employment, and low-wage work are risk factors for higher rates of being without insurance, being without adequate insurance, and greater dependence on the individual insurance market, conditions all subject to issues of cost, choice, and level of coverage that a public health insurance plan could address.
Unique rural factors make health insurance coverage less stable for rural individuals and families, ultimately negatively affecting their health. The high cost of insurance in the individual market; generally higher insurance premiums in rural areas; less employer-provided insurance; and lower incomes and higher rates of poverty all act together to leave rural residents with a greater risk of being without insurance, without adequate insurance, or uninsured for longer periods of time, all factors that negatively affect health.
Their report came to this conclusion:
A public health insurance plan available as an option for individuals, families, and businesses helps address the rural risk factors leading to rural insurance instability and would act as a backup for all of the rural factors leading to greater insurance instability. Further, it would act as a check on private insurance plans, keeping private coverage honest in ways that benefit individuals, families and businesses.
To be truly beneficial to rural people and businesses, any public health insurance plan option must contain several provisions. Those are outlined in more detail in Why Rural America Needs a Public Health Insurance Option. Among the most important is equity to rural areas by providing rural provider reimbursement rates that have less disparity than exist under current public programs such as Medicare.
The enhanced coverage and lower costs a public health insurance plan could bring to rural people are of little consolation if rural providers are unable to provide services to public plan consumers because reimbursement rates are too low. A public health insurance plan - for all the benefits it could bring to rural areas - should not aggravate the problem of access. Health care reform should not seek to contain costs on the backs of rural people and rural providers.
At Hillbilly Report we are fighting to show rural America how voting for Republicans and Conservative Democrats is so detrimental to their own interests. On no one issue is this fact more evident. Rural Americans stand to benefit more from a public option than anyone. Many of the Republicans and Blue-Dog Democrats are representing them.
We cannot be discouraged when we see the videos of disruption by disinformation mobs at townhalls and especially in rural America we need to get out to these meeting ourselves and let the country know that the far-right lunatics who are fighting against our well-being are no longer speaking for our rural communities and people, who are suffering immensely under the greed of the current system.