As state governments address the changes mandated by the Affordable Care Act, many are grappling to ensure their health insurance exchange properly serves all residents equally. States composed of rural areas are confronting the challenges of reaching localities that aren’t heavily populated.
While nearly one-fourth of the population resides in rural America, only about 10 percent of U.S. physicians practice in these areas, according to the National Rural Health Association. In addition, rural residents tends to be poorer than urban dwellers and farmland locals are less likely to have employer-sponsored healthcare.
Minnesota is among the states that must cater to a large rural population. Last year, the state announced it will create a local exchange independent from the federal government. While other states only recently announced a partnership with or full reliance on Washington to build their healthcare marketplaces, Minnesota is relatively ahead in terms of implementation. The state exchange is expected to serve roughly 1.3 million residents, including 300,000 who are currently uninsured, Duluth News Tribune reports.
Minnesota’s state-based exchange will provide healthcare consumers with important information related to providers, networks, ratings and plans. This ability, which federal systems are expected to lack, is especially important for rural residents who may live several hours away from a primary care doctor, the newspaper points out.