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Uninsured Numbers Drop in Rural MN with Medicaid Expansion

Particularly in rural areas, hospitals, clinics and maternity wards face economic challenges when high percentages of their local populations lack health insurance. (pueblostepup.org)
Particularly in rural areas, hospitals, clinics and maternity wards face economic challenges when high percentages of their local populations lack health insurance. (pueblostepup.org)
September 26, 2018

ST. PAUL, Minn. – Since Minnesota expanded its Medicaid program in 2013, the number of people uninsured in the state's rural areas has been cut nearly in half.

A new report from the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families examines how states are doing, whether or not they opted to expand Medicaid, and Minnesota's numbers are among the bright spots.

Stephanie Hogenson, outreach director of the Children's Defense Fund in Minnesota, says the state's uninsured rate for low-income, rural residents was 24 percent in 2009. Now, it's 13 percent.

"Even having a 13 percent uninsured rate among this population is pretty significant when our overall uninsured rate hovers around 4 or 5 percent," she states.

The report says states that have expanded Medicaid have seen their rural uninsured rates drop more than three times as much as states that didn't opt to expand.

Report co-author Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, says the benefits go beyond people's ability to get and afford health care. She says they reach far into the economies of small towns and sparsely-populated counties, as well.

"There's so much research about this,” she states. “So, from an economic perspective, having health insurance, having this Medicaid coverage, is really important in these rural areas, which are already struggling with higher rates of unemployment and poverty."

Hogenson adds the economic effects were already being felt in Minnesota in the years before the Medicaid expansion.

"There have been rural hospitals and clinics across the state that have closed, maternity wards or other critical care services – part of that is just because of not having access to patients who can come and get services because they're insured," she states.

Hogenson says today Minnesota can contrast its progress with states such as South Dakota, which elected not to expand, and where the uninsured rate for rural, low-income adults is 47 percent.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - MN