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Report: Medicaid Invaluable for Rural Nebraskans

Many Nebraska families living in small towns and rural communities rely on Medicaid for health care coverage, more so than those who live in metro areas. (Pixabay)
Many Nebraska families living in small towns and rural communities rely on Medicaid for health care coverage, more so than those who live in metro areas. (Pixabay)
June 8, 2017

LINCOLN, Neb. – A new report underscores the importance of Medicaid in ensuring rural Nebraska families have access to the care they need to stay healthy.

According to the findings from the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, 31 percent of Nebraska children living in rural communities rely on Medicaid for their health care coverage, compared with 26 percent in metro areas.

Dr. Tina Scott-Mordhorst, a pediatrician in Plattsmouth, says for her patient population, Medicaid is invaluable.

"Your heart breaks for them because when they don't have any coverage, they don't get health care,” she relates. “Medical bills are pricey and it can be a real deterrent.

“My patient population is about 30 percent Medicaid, and many would not be able to get the health care they get if they didn't have it."

The data also shows the growing role of Medicaid. In 2015, about 20 percent more Nebraska children were living in small towns and rural communities covered by the program than in 2009.

During the same time frame, the percent of uninsured non-elderly Nebraskans in the same areas fell from 14 percent in 2009 to 10 percent in 2015.

Scott-Mordhorst contends Medicaid is the foundation of good health care and viable communities.

"If we pay for families and children to receive the services they need right now, those children then turn around and can become productive members of society that are able to learn, be educated, have jobs, contribute," she points out.

Kaitlin Reece, policy coordinator for economic stability and health with Voices for Children in Nebraska, says there are concerns about proposals from Congress and the White House to slash Medicaid funding.

She explains that if approved, costs would be shifted on to states and some people could lose coverage.

"In a state like Nebraska where we just closed a very large budget shortfall, our concern is the response from the state will be to limit services, cap enrollment, further decrease provider rates or some combination of all three, which will result in children not having access to health care," she states.

Besides providing access to necessary medical care, Reece says Medicaid also improves economic security and protects families from medical debt and bankruptcy.

She notes the program is a crucial support for whole communities as it provides funding for rural health centers and hospitals.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - NE