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ACA Increased Access to Health Coverage in Rural America, HHS Finds

Cate Douglass
The Affordable Care Act has helped many Americans gain access to health coverage, and a recent analysis from HHS discovered that rural America in particular has benefited.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has helped many Americans gain access to health coverage, and a recent analysis from HHS discovered that rural America in particular has benefited.

The report analyzed a collection of data and independent studies, and found that health coverage in rural communities rose 8 percentage points from late 2013 to early 2015. HHS also noted that the share of rural Americans who may not have been able to afford needed care dropped by nearly 6 percentage points. In comparison to individuals living in cities, the ACA has helped rural Americans gain access to coverage at comparable rates, which the report cited was due to tax credits that kept coverage affordable and other coverage reforms, like the elimination of exclusion for pre-existing health conditions.

Furthermore, study investigators found that enrollment rates in 2016 increased as well. Of the states with HealthCare.gov, 1.7 million rural Americans signed up for coverage, which comprised 1 in 5 health plans and demonstrated an 11% increase from 2015.

“The Affordable Care Act has helped millions of people in rural areas access quality, affordable health coverage,” said HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell in a statement. “As someone from rural America, I know how important these gains in coverage and access to care are to communities like my hometown of Hinton, West Virginia.”

The report also indicated that the ACA has not only increased access to health coverage among rural communities, but it has also helped to keep coverage affordable. Study investigators discovered that among the 88% of individuals living in rural communities with premium tax credits, the average net monthly premium only increased 4% from 2015 to 2016, averaging in a total increase of just $5.

The study emphasized that despite recent developments in increased access and affordability, more work still needs to be done. Two-thirds of uninsured Americans living in rural areas live in states that have yet to expand Medicaid at the end of 2015. There still remain 19 states that can help improve access to the uninsured by choosing to expand Medicaid.

 
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