US rural residents face health and healthcare-related vulnerabilities
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| June 10, 2020
LOS ANGELES, June 10, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Only 69 percent of rural residents describe themselves as being in "excellent" or "good" health, which is less than what is reported by urban (80 percent) and suburban (78 percent) residents, according to Left Behind: Health Care in Rural America, a new study released today by nonprofit Transamerica Center for Health Studies® (TCHS). Based on the 7th Annual TCHS Consumer Health Care Survey, conducted in August 2019 among 3,760 U.S. residents age 18 to 64, the new study illuminates the health and health care-related risks among rural residents and offers comparisons with urban and suburban residents.
"Much of the attention surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic has focused primarily on cities and larger metropolitan areas. We also need to focus on rural areas and the unique vulnerabilities their residents are facing," said Christopher Wells, national program manager for TCHS.
Health care in rural areas is often less accessible than in urban and suburban areas for a number of reasons, including fewer hospitals to reach medical professionals and longer travel times to health facilities. In addition, the survey findings point to other potential systemic issues:
Rural residents are less likely to have health insurance. Eighty-one percent of rural residents have health insurance— and a concerning 19 percent do not. In contrast, 90 percent of urban and 89 percent of suburban residents have health insurance.
Seventy-five percent of rural residents indicate they are able to afford routine health care expenses (e.g., health insurance co-pays, deductibles, and out-of-pockets expenses), which is fewer than reported by urban (82 percent) and suburban residents (85 percent).
Less than three in four rural residents (73 percent) have one primary care doctor they regularly see, compared with 83 percent of urban and 82 percent of suburban residents.
Only 28 percent of rural residents are very satisfied with the quality of the health care system they have access to today, compared with 42 percent of urban and 32 percent of suburban residents.
"Employers across all regions of the country play a crucial role in providing workers with health insurance coverage and workplace wellness programs, but in rural areas, this is happening to a lesser extent," Wells said. The survey findings illustrate disparities:
Rural workers are less likely to say they are offered various health care benefits than urban and suburban workers, but their total enrollment rates are comparable. For example, two in three rural workers (66 percent) say they are offered major medical insurance, which is lower than found among urban (75 percent) and suburban (74 percent) workers. However, among those offered this benefit, approximately three in four enroll in them regardless of location (74 percent rural, 74 percent urban, and 75 percent suburban).
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