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affordable care act

Addressing the Heroin and Prescription Opioid Epidemic

Walk into any town in rural America, and ask someone if they know someone who is struggling or has struggled with addiction.  Chances are the answer will be yes.

In 2014, 28,648 Americans died of overdoses of opioids, a class of drugs that includes both prescription pain medications and heroin.  Heroin-related overdose deaths nearly doubled between 2011 and 2013.  In 2013, prescription opioid abuse or dependency affected 1.9 million Americans, and 517,000 Americans had abused heroin within the past year.

Investing in a Healthy Rural America

Imagine for a moment what it must be like to get injured in an accident, or have a heart attack or stroke, and have the nearest medical facility be an hour's ambulance ride away – and that's after the ambulance from thirty miles away gets to you.

That's an unfortunate reality faced by many rural Americans, where the miles between critical care centers can reach into the triple digits. USDA Rural Development is working to change that reality.

Rural Health Week: How the Affordable Care Act is Helping to Build a Stronger, Healthier Rural America

Keeping our rural communities healthy is key to building a stronger America. That’s why as we kick off this year’s Rural Health Week, I’m proud of the new affordable health insurance options that are available because of the Affordable Care Act, helping to give rural families piece of mind across the country.

Quality health care is critical to the success of rural children and families – and open enrollment for health insurance coverage only happens once each year. From now until January 31, 2016, you can sign up for an affordable plan that’s right for you and your family. If you currently have coverage, you might qualify for a plan that can save you money.

Affordable Care Act Gives New Farmers the Freedom to Farm

As every farmer and rancher will tell you, life on the farm means you make tough choices every day. At times the challenges and risks facing farmers, especially those just starting out, can seem difficult and daunting. Now, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, new farmers have one less thing to worry about: they no longer have to choose between doing what they love and having access to affordable, reliable health insurance coverage for themselves and their families.

There are stories like Elena, who worked alongside her father on their Colorado farm throughout her early 20s. The Affordable Care Act allowed her to remain on her parent’s health insurance through the age of 25. But after she turned 26, she had to take a job in town that came with health benefits. By getting Affordable Care Act marketplace coverage, she was able to come back to her family farm while maintaining access to health coverage.

Secretary's Column: Deadline Approaching for Health Insurance Coverage that Begins January 1

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is already making a difference in the lives of millions of rural Americans. Thanks to the ACA, families can choose from a variety of affordable insurance plans and many will qualify for financial assistance to help them pay for coverage.

The deadline is coming up to sign up for health insurance coverage that begins on January 1. To start the new year with coverage, you must sign up by December 15 at or call 1-800-318-2596 if you need help signing up.

Secretary's Column: Getting Covered is Good for Rural America

Cross posted from the Huffington Post:

Living in a rural community shouldn't have to come with a hefty price tag for healthcare. On this National Rural Health Day, we celebrate the fact that thanks to the Affordable Care Act, it no longer has to.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is already making a difference in the lives of millions of rural Americans. Prior to the ACA, many rural families had a hard time finding affordable insurance coverage, paying an average of nearly half of their costs out of their own pockets. Many didn't have access to affordable health insurance through an employer because they were self-employed as farmers, ranchers or rural business owners and entrepreneurs. While those folks take calculated business risks every day, their health should not be one of them.

Partnership and Investment on Health IT Week

This week at USDA we are celebrating National Health IT week by highlighting USDA’s ongoing efforts to expand modern health care access to rural America. Yesterday, we announced two new steps to improve health care for rural Americans – both through new investments in health infrastructure and ongoing interagency partnerships designed to better focus Federal efforts on rural health care.

USDA is expanding a partnership with HHS and the Department of Veterans Affairs, as part of our work together on the White House Rural Council, to leverage funds and other efforts that will support advanced health care technology in rural hospitals. This partnership is an extension of a successful pilot launched in five states – Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Mississippi and Texas – to identify rural critical access hospitals in persistent poverty areas in need of advanced health care technology. For example, during the pilot phase of this partnership, the USDA Rural Development Iowa State Office, the Iowa Regional Health IT Extension Center (REC) and the Iowa State Office of Rural Health convened the first Iowa Rural Health IT Forum to expand care for Critical Access Hospitals.

Secretary's Column: A Health Care Law for Rural America

Two years ago last week, President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act – the law that gives hard working, middle-class families the health security they deserve.

For too long, rural Americans have been getting the short end of the health care stick, with limited options, fewer doctors and nurses, and more expensive insurance.  But the new law is building a stronger health system in rural communities – increasing payments to rural health care providers, strengthening Medicare, and training thousands of new primary care doctors who will serve in rural areas.

Campaign to Cut Waste: Fighting Fraud and Slashing Errors

Cross posted from the White House blog:

Just days after the White House launch of the Campaign to Cut Waste, an Administration-wide initiative to crack down on unnecessary spending, two federal agencies announced new progress in fighting fraud and cracking down on improper payments.

In a dose of bad news for criminals looking to take advantage of our seniors and defraud Medicare, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced today they’ll be deploying innovative technology in the fight against Medicare Fraud. Starting July 1, CMS will begin using predictive modeling technology, similar to that used by credit card companies, to identify potentially fraudulent Medicare claims on a nationwide basis, and help stop fraudulent claims before they are paid. This initiative builds on the strides made with the Recovery Act to utilize the kinds of cutting edge tools used by the private sector -- as well as new anti-fraud tools and resources provided by the Affordable Care Act.

One Year Later - How Has the Affordable Care Act Helped You?

It’s no secret that Americans in rural areas sometimes struggle to get the health care they need.  Whether it’s a farmer losing his health insurance because he has no good choices or a mom putting off treatment because it’s too expensive, or hard to find a doctor nearby, rural Americans too often go without critical preventive care – and pay more out of pocket they receive.