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Report: NC Rural Towns Count on Medicaid to Survive

A new report says North Carolina tops the list for high percentages of rural children on Medicaid compared to kids in the state's urban areas. (Lou Bueno/Flickr)
A new report says North Carolina tops the list for high percentages of rural children on Medicaid compared to kids in the state's urban areas. (Lou Bueno/Flickr)
June 8, 2017

RALEIGH, N.C. -- The importance of Medicaid in small towns and rural parts of North Carolina cannot be overstated, according to a new report from the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families and the North Carolina Rural Health Research Program.

Researchers found that across the nation, a larger percentage of children in rural areas count on Medicaid compared to urban areas - and the Tar Heel State tops that list. Adam Searing, associate professor with Georgetown's McCourt School of Public Policy, explained.

"When you see that number of over half of kids getting Medicaid in these small towns and rural areas, you can really see that any changes to the Medicaid program really do impact, very significantly, small towns and unincorporated areas of the state,” Searing said.

North Carolina is in the top 10 states with the largest difference between the numbers of rural and urban children covered by Medicaid - with 54 percent of rural children on Medicaid, and 39 percent of children in metro counties. The report said the data underscores the importance of preserving funding for Medicaid and related services as Congress debates the American Health Care Act.

Joan Alker, research professor and executive director with the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, called Medicaid a crucial support for children, families, seniors and people with disabilities.

"Our nation's leaders face a really important decision on whether or not to cut Medicaid and turn their backs on the progress we've made in helping children and families,” Alker said. "That's so important for folks to understand that the Medicaid program is really the backbone of health insurance in these rural areas and small towns."

Searing said another factor contributing to Medicaid's importance in rural communities is that in some cases, it's the only health insurance option in areas where there are fewer opportunities for work.

"There are fewer opportunities and a lot of people working at small businesses that may not offer family health coverage, or even individual coverage,” she said. "They'll have lower incomes, so they may be working at jobs that don't offer coverage at all."

According to the report, the number of children on Medicaid increased by 8 percentage points since 2009.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - NC