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Study: Medicaid is a Vital Insurance Source in Rural Areas

March 14, 2012

HELENA, Mont. - Small towns are increasingly becoming reliant on Medicaid.

A new study from the Center for Rural Affairs calls Medicaid a "vital insurance source" in rural Montana - and there are several reasons why, according to study author Jon Bailey, the center's director of research and analysis.

"Rural households, rural families have, on average, lower incomes, and they also have lower rates of employer-provided health insurance. Medicaid has really become the only health insurance program that's available."

While some view Medicaid as "welfare," Bailey says, he found that about 65 percent of families using the coverage have at least one family member in the workforce. He adds that Medicaid is a critical piece of the rural health-care system which serves everyone, because program money is a significant source of funding for health-care providers and industry jobs.

"Probably a lot of those hospitals, a lot of those doctors, a lot of those clinics would not be open if we didn't have strong Medicaid programs."

Bailey says he found that Medicaid coverage was most often used by children, low-income Montanans with disabilities, low-income seniors and pregnant women.

The full study, Medicaid and Rural America," is online at cfra.org.

Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - MT