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Report Shows Medicaid Vital for Rural Children

In New York, 42 percent of rural and small town children are covered by Medicaid. (Eden, Janine and Jim/Flickr)
In New York, 42 percent of rural and small town children are covered by Medicaid. (Eden, Janine and Jim/Flickr)
June 8, 2017

NEW YORK – Medicaid is critically important for health care in small towns and rural areas, especially for children, according to a new report.

The state-by-state analysis, prepared by the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, found that, nationally, 16 percent of adults and 45 percent of children living outside of metropolitan areas are insured through Medicaid, significant increases since before the Affordable Care Act's Medicaid expansion.

Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown center, maintains that's something federal lawmakers need to consider as they contemplate huge proposed cuts to the program.

"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," she states.

In New York state, 42 percent of small town and rural children were covered by Medicaid in 2015, an increase of 8 percentage points since the expansion.

According to Kate Breslin, president of the Schuyler Center for Analysis and Advocacy, children who have access to health care do better in school, have higher graduation rates and greater success in adult life.

"So the consequences of not having coverage are both health and education related for kids, as well as problems with economic security for whole families," she points out.

Almost 98 percent of New York children now have health insurance, due in large part to the availability of Medicaid.

Alker adds that in many rural communities, Medicaid programs also are supporting rural health centers and hospitals.

"Those institutions serve the whole community, not just folks who are on Medicaid, so if we see very large cuts in Medicaid those rural hospitals and health centers are at risk of closure," she states.

The report concludes that rural areas and small towns are more likely to reap the health and economic benefits of Medicaid, and more likely to suffer consequences if the program is cut.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - NY