The Center for Rural Affairs released a policy report today entitled – Health Insurance Coverage in Nebraska: The Rural Implications - which examines the most recent data on health insurance coverage in Nebraska to determine where differences in rates of uninsured Nebraskans exist, particularly differences between rural and urban areas. “With the Unicameral beginning their 2013 session tomorrow, it is crucial to recognize that expanding Medicaid as allowed in the Affordable Care Act would reduce by half the discouragingly high rural uninsured rates that our research reveals,” said Jon Bailey, Center for Rural Affairs Research and Analysis Director and author of the report. According to the report, Nebraska's rural counties have lower health insurance coverage rates than more urban counties for residents under 65 and, as county population decreases uninsured rates increase. And counties with “high” uninsured rates (21 percent uninsured or greater) exist only in non-metropolitan (rural) Nebraska. A full copy of the report can be viewed and downloaded at: http://files.cfra.org/pdf/NE-Health-Insurance-Coverage.pdf. “Clearly, rural Nebraskans face more structural barriers to adequate health insurance coverage than our urban counterparts,” said Bailey. “With an economic foundation of small businesses, self-employment, and low wages, rural communities are not well served by a health insurance system that relies on employer-based coverage.” Many families are forced to purchase from the individual insurance market where they all too often wind up underinsured, with coverage that costs too much and provides too little. Those who cannot afford the significantly more expensive individual packages must go without or rely on public insurance, Bailey explained. The Center for Rural Affairs report also points out that significantly higher uninsured rates in rural Nebraska affect the health status of rural individuals and families and rural communities. Research finds that rural people receive fewer necessary health care services and less preventive care, leading to more expensive health care. The ultimate result of less than adequate care for rural residents is a worsening of health status and an increase in chronic conditions, exactly what Bailey and the Center have found in rural areas. “Moreover, a community's economic development, community cohesiveness, and health care infrastructure are all threatened by a lack of affordable health insurance that results in more families without health insurance or less than adequate insurance,” added Bailey. “And we all pay for the skyrocketing costs of health insurance as the insured and health care providers in rural Nebraska face increasing economic pressure from the costs of health care services to the uninsured or underinsured that are not paid by insurance or any other source.” Bailey explained further that in the coming weeks and months the Nebraska Legislature can take one action that could reduce the uninsured rate by almost half. The Legislature will decide whether to participate in the new Medicaid initiative, created by the Affordable Care Act to provide healthcare coverage to low-income, working adults, that could help as many as 108,000 uninsured Nebraskans - 54,000 rural Nebraskans - obtain health care coverage. A full copy of the report can be viewed and downloaded at: http://files.cfra.org/pdf/NE-Health-Insurance-Coverage.pdf.