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Rural America Needs Our Health Care Law

Posted by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in USDA Results
Jan 19, 2011

Recent news tells us that the American economy is continuing to move in the right direction, creating private sector jobs for twelve months in a row.  The health care law signed by President Obama last year, the Affordable Care Act, has done its part to increase economic certainty in rural America by expanding health insurance options, strengthening Medicare and Medicaid, and providing tax relief to businesses. And although families across the nation are already seeing the benefits of this new law, this week some in Congress want to repeal the law. This would be a huge mistake for rural America.

For far too long rural Americans have been at the short end of the stick when it comes to health care. With few insurers to choose from and a shortage of doctors and nurses that faces many rural communities, these families pay higher premiums and out-of-pocket costs than the rest of the country.  Too often they skip the care they need. To build a better health care system for rural towns, the new law supports the training, education and placement of thousands of new primary care providers for small towns. Additionally, the law increases Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement rates for primary care physicians – which have lagged behind their urban peers – to help ensure that doctors and nurses stay in rural communities.

The harsh economic climate of the past few years has proven difficult for small businesses across the nation, creating uncertainty for employers and employees alike.  The new heath care law creates tax credits to help qualifying small businesses offset up to 35% of the cost of covering employee health care. In 2014, that credit will increase to 50%, and a new state-based health insurance marketplace will give small businesses and part-time workers more options for affordable care, and will provide these businesses with the certainty they need to keep expanding and hiring.

Before the passage of this new law, rural Americans were at the mercy of a few large insurance companies, and had little protection against unreasonable rate increases and abuses by providers. The Affordable Care Act holds insurers accountable, bringing down costs by increasing competition, and limiting the amount of money health care companies can spend on executive salaries. In addition, the new law requires that insurers cover prevention and wellness benefits free-of-charge, so families never have to pay out-of-pocket for immunizations or tests. Repealing the bill would force many rural Americans to skip the preventative care they need, jeopardizing their long-term health and leading to increased costs down the road.

Finally, the Affordable Care Act saves money.  Just as families across the country have been tightening their belts, this law helps the Federal Government to do the same, reducing our deficit by $230 billion within a decade, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office.

Allowing Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act would threaten the economic certainty of rural businesses just as the benefits are beginning to take hold, and again make families vulnerable to the whims of insurance companies.  The Affordable Care Act is working to build a better quality of life for rural communities by lowering health care costs, guaranteeing more choices to families, enhancing the quality of care, and providing the stability our businesses need to keep growing. We cannot go back to the days when rural Americans had to choose between medical attention and feeding their families. For the long-term health and growth of our economy, and communities across rural America, we cannot afford to repeal this legislation.

Category/Topic: USDA Results