Friday, June 9, 2017

Medicaid "lifeline" for rural Ohio families

The percentage of Ohio children and adults covered by Medicaid
in rural areas and small towns grew between 2009 and 2015. (Pixabay)
By Mary Kuhlman
Ohio News Connection

COLUMBUS, Ohio - A new report underscores the importance of Medicaid in ensuring rural Ohio families have access to the care they need to stay healthy.

According to the findings from the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, 40 percent of Ohio children living in rural communities rely on Medicaid for their health care coverage, compared with 36 percent in metro areas.

Brandi Slaughter, CEO of the advocacy group Voice for Ohio's Children, says these children and families risk losing access to health care as Congress and the White House consider cuts to the program.

"Medicaid provides an important lifeline in Ohio for children and families, particularly in our small towns and rural communities," she states. "It's important to make sure that we're not overlooking the needs of these communities. "

The data also shows the growing role of Medicaid. In 2015, there were about 17 percent more Ohio children living in small towns and rural communities covered by the program than in 2009.

President Donald Trump's proposed budget and the U.S. House's health care plan would slash a reported $1.4 trillion combined from Medicaid over the next decade.

Joan Alker, executive executive director of the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, says the center's research also uncovered the benefits of Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act.

"For adults the decline in uninsured rate that accepted the Medicaid expansion was definitely higher - 11 percent point decline in rural and small towns, as compared to 6 percent in small towns and rural areas and states that did not accept expansion," she states.

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

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

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