Residents of rural areas pay out-of-pocket for, on average, nearly half of their health insurance costs. Many of the provisions in the health care law are particularly important for these people.
The law increases access to health care in rural areas
• The law invests in the health care work force to ensure that people in rural areas have access to doctors, nurses and other primary care practitioners.
• The law provides more resources to medical and nursing schools to train doctors and nurses to work in rural and underserved areas.
• The law invests in health care innovations, such as community health teams. These teams help people manage chronic conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.
• The law ensures that hospitals and health care providers in rural communities receive the Medicare funds they need to offer quality care and keep their doors open.
• The law provides more funding for community-based health care centers in rural areas, as well as grants for school-based health centers in underserved areas.
The law makes health insurance more accessible
• By 2014, small businesses, self-employed individuals and anyone without insurance will be able to buy private insurance through a health insurance exchange in their state. Currently in many rural states, one insurance company dominates the market. As a result, consumers have few options. Health insurance exchanges will offer a choice of plans and make it easier for people in rural areas to compare plans and prices.
• If you have a pre-existing condition and have been uninsured for at least six months, the health care law could give you access to insurance coverage. This coverage — known as the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan — is now available in your state. This program will continue until the health insurance exchanges begin in 2014. At that point, all insurance plans will be required to cover pre-existing conditions.
The law lowers costs
• You no longer have to pay some of the out-of-pocket costs for preventive care services, such as mammograms, immunizations and screenings for cancer or diabetes.
• If you have Medicare, you qualify for an annual wellness visit, mammograms and other screenings for diabetes and certain cancers. You will not have to pay for them.
• If you reach the Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage gap, you'll receive a 52.5 percent discount on your brand-name prescription drugs and a 21 percent discount on generic prescriptions while you're in the coverage gap. The discounts will gradually increase until the coverage gap disappears in 2020.
• You may be able to receive tax credits to help pay your premiums for health insurance bought through an exchange.
The law provides tax credits for small businesses
• If you operate a small business in a rural area, you may be able to get tax credits to offset some of the cost of offering health insurance to your employees. An estimated 2.8 million to 4 million small businesses will be eligible for the credits that begin in 2014.
The law eliminates discriminatory insurance practices
• Health insurance companies can no longer drop your health coverage if you become sick. Your insurance is guaranteed as long as you pay your premiums. Additional protections limit excessive premiums due to age, gender or health condition.
• Because insurance companies can no longer place lifetime or annual limits on your health coverage, your benefits won’t run out when you need them the most. The ban on lifetime limits began in 2010, while the ban on annual limits begins in 2014.