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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Harvard: Financial Insecurity and Limited Access to Health Care Plague Many Rural Americans

Many rural Americans are experiencing financial insecurity, according to a new  National Public Radio (NPR)/Robert Wood Johnson Foundation/Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health poll. The poll, conducted among 1,405 adults living in the rural United States, found that 40 percent of respondents struggled with routine medical bills, food, and housing while 49 percent said they could not afford to pay an unexpected $1,000 expense of any type.

The poll also found that 26 percent of respondents were not able to get health care when they needed it at some point in recent years despite the fact that 87 percent of respondents reported having health insurance of some sort. Among respondents who were not able to obtain health care, 45 percent said they could not afford it, 23 percent said the health care facility was too far or difficult to get to, and 22 percent said they could not get an appointment at a convenient time. Nearly one in ten of respondents said hospitals in their local community have closed down in the past few years.

“At a time when we thought we had made major progress in reducing barriers to needed health care, the fact that one in four still face these barriers is an issue of national concern,” said Dr. Robert Blendon, Richard L. Menschel Professor of Public Health and Professor of Health Policy and Political Analysis and senior associate dean for policy translation and leadership development at Harvard Chan School, in a May 21 NPR article. “Either it is still not affordable for them or the insurance they have doesn’t work — or they can’t get care from the health providers that are in their community.”

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