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Rural Dwellers Want Equal Shot At Health Care

September 11, 2009

CHARLESTON, WV - A nationwide letter-writing campaign to Congress is underway urging lawmakers to factor the needs of rural America in any new health care reform plan being considered. Rural advocates say those living outside of urban areas are currently being under-served. By percentage of population, West Virginia is the second-most-rural state in the county.

Niel Ritchie, executive director of the League of Rural Voters, says for too long, "outstaters" have had to settle for less when it comes to health care.

"We know that rural residents are more likely to die from non-auto-related injuries; they receive less treatment for chronic disease, and they have generally lower overall health. You combine that with an alarming shortage of hospitals and health-care professionals, and there's not enough providers to meet basic needs."

Ritchie notes, while millions can't afford, or get insurance, profits for the top 10 insurance companies increased 430 percent this decade. He says voters need to get out the message that that's unacceptable.

"We know that health insurance companies profit from denying care to their customers and to people. It costs more to deliver care in rural areas because the density is less, so, health insurance companies are a significant part of the problem."

Seniors are less able to afford life-saving medications, Ritchie adds, because of their higher rate of poverty and lower level of prescription drug coverage. The best way to operate a fair and affordable health system is to make sure there's competition among providers that includes a strong, fair public plan option, he says.

Those opposing a public option say it will drive up taxes and limit provider choice, while insurance companies point out they are operating within legal regulatory guidelines.

More information is available online at

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV