Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today discussed how the Affordable Care Act is building a stronger health system in rural communities and providing better care for farm families and the agricultural community.
"No one should have to go without health care because of where they live, and for too long, rural Americans have been getting the short end of the health care stick." said Vilsack. "The Affordable Care Act is helping millions of young people access health care, strengthening Medicare, and training thousands of new doctors to serve rural areas to give middle-class families the health security they deserve."
Two years ago, President Obama signed the Act into law and today the law is giving Americans more freedom in their health care choices, lowering costs, and improving the quality of care.
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act:
* 2.5 million more young adults have health insurance on their parent's plan.
* 3.6 million seniors with Medicare in 2011 alone saved an average of $600 on the cost of their prescription drugs. And everyone on Medicare can get preventive services like mammograms for free.
* Insurance companies must spend at least 80% of your premium dollars on health care and quality improvements and not overhead, and cannot raise your premiums by 10% or more with no accountability.
* It's illegal for insurance companies to deny coverage to children because of a pre-existing condition. And in 2014, discriminating against anyone with a pre-existing condition will be illegal.
As chair of the White House Rural Council, Secretary Vilsack is working to ensure that rural Americans are aware of the many ways the new health care law helps them. Specifically, rural families will see improved access to care, new options for those with pre-existing conditions, coverage for young adults so they can take local jobs and contribute to their rural economies, and reduced insurance barriers to emergency services.
Here are a few components of how the law is helping rural families:
* Encourages thousands of new primary care doctors and nurses to practice in rural communities and increases payments to rural health providers.
* Removes insurance barriers to emergency services. Rural citizens can seek care from a hospital outside their health plan's network when there is no time to travel to a hospital that is farther away.
* Gives options for those with pre-existing conditions and forbids insurers from using an unintentional error in your application to cancel your coverage when you get sick.
* Gives seniors freedom to get the care they need, including free preventive care, lower cost prescription drugs, and Medicare they can count on.
* Gives farm families the flexibility to keep children on their parent's health insurance until they are 26. Having health insurance allows young people to remain locally and contribute to their rural economies.
In 2012, as part of a series of recommendations from the White House Rural Council, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Labor signed a memorandum of understanding to connect community colleges and technical colleges that support rural communities with the materials and resources they need to support the training of Health Information Technology (HIT) professionals that work in rural hospitals and clinics. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the needed HIT workforce will increase by 20 percent by 2016.
Also due to efforts by the White House Rural Council, a memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed between USDA Rural Development and Health and Human Services (HHS) to improve collaboration and strengthen the healthcare infrastructure in rural communities. This MOU will connect rural hospitals and clinicians to existing capital loan programs that enable them to purchase software and hardware to implement HIT.
Over the last three years, USDA has worked within existing programs to invest in rural healthcare, providing funding to improve nearly 600 rural health facilities serving more than 11 million Americans. Our programs have funded equipment -- like CT scans, MRIs, ultra sound and lab equipment. Since 1974, more than 40% of USDA Rural Development's Community Facilities Programs' portfolio has been invested in rural health care facilities. Over 3 years, USDA has also awarded grants and loans to help rural health facilities serving 730 counties expand opportunities -- though telemedicine -- to provide advanced diagnosis for patients or to consult with colleagues at other hospitals.
The Affordable Care Act is giving rural Americans more freedom in their health care choices, lowering costs, and improving the quality of care. Learn more about the new law and how to take advantage of these benefits by visiting www.healthcare.gov.