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Medicaid Crucial to Rural Hoosier Kids

More children in Indiana's small towns rely on Medicaid to stay healthy than those in the state's larger cities. (Virginia Carter)
More children in Indiana's small towns rely on Medicaid to stay healthy than those in the state's larger cities. (Virginia Carter)
June 8, 2017

INDIANAPOLIS -- A new report shows that Medicaid plays a larger role in rural communities in Indiana than it does in larger cities.

The report, "Medicaid in Small Towns and Rural America," looked at all 50 states and found about 45 percent of children in small towns and rural areas rely on Medicaid for their coverage, compared to 38 percent in metro areas. Rylin Rogers with Family Voices of Indiana said these are children dealing with conditions such as asthma, sickle cell anemia, cancer and developmental disabilities, including autism.

She said not only are more rural kids affected by these conditions, the small towns they live in often don't have specialty care centers.

"So, if you need a pediatric cardiologist, you likely are going to need to get that care from an urban environment,” Rogers said. "In Indiana, most of that care happens in the central part of our state, the children's hospitals."

According to the report, 75 percent of kids with these specialized medical issues live in low- or middle-income families. Proposals from President Donald Trump and the U.S. House would slash $1.4 trillion from Medicaid over the next decade.

Rogers said many Indiana families even have to travel to other states for care, which means long road trips with sick children - plus the cost of food and hotel stays. And Medicaid takes that into consideration.

"Thinking about making sure that kids have access to the care that they need in the closest environment, and that they have coverage, including Medicaid,” she explained.

The report, from the Georgetown University Center on Children and Families, also found the Affordable Care Act's Medicaid expansion has had a greater positive impact in small towns and rural areas than in urban areas. It said cutting Medicaid would have a negative impact on rural health centers and hospitals.

More information is available at KFF.org

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - IN