June 7, 2017

Medicaid is Vital to Rural Communities

Medicaid provides health care for nearly 1.2 million Wisconsinites in all parts of the state, but a new study shows that it is especially important for children in rural areas.

The new analysis by the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families found that in 2014-15 Medicaid provided health coverage for 45 percent of children and 16 percent of adults who live in small towns and rural areas across the United States. That compares to 38 percent of children and 15 percent of adults in metropolitan areas.

Using the data in the report, we mapped the percentage of children in each Wisconsin county who were covered by Medicaid. That map clearly shows the tremendous importance of Medicaid for children in rural parts of the state, particularly in the northern counties.Rural Report County Children's MA Coverage Map X-13

In most of Wisconsin’s northern counties, over 40 percent of children get health insurance coverage through Medicaid.  In fact, among the 19 Wisconsin counties where two-fifths or more of the children are participating in Medicaid or BadgerCare, 18 are in the northern third of the state.

The new analysis reinforces the findings in a recent WCCF report that documented the effectiveness of Medicaid and the insurance exchanges established by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Both that report and the new analysis illustrate how much rural areas of Wisconsin have at stake in the current debate over changing the structure of Medicaid and capping federal support for the program.

According to the latest estimates by the Congressional Budget Office, the House bill to repeal and partially replace the ACA would cut $834 billion from federal Medicaid funding over the next 10 years.  As we explained in a recent blog post, President Trump’s budget bill endorses those cuts and goes much further – bringing the total cuts by 2026 to an estimated $1.3 trillion.

The new report found that there has been a much larger drop in the number of people who are uninsured in states that used the Affordable Care to expand Medicaid eligibility to all adults up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level.  The House bill to repeal and replace the ACA would phase out those expansions.

Joan Alker, Executive Director of the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families raised concerns about the implications for rural families of the proposed Medicaid cuts:

“Medicaid provides critical access to life-saving treatment and protection from rising health care costs to many children and families living in small towns and rural America. Cuts to Medicaid and other health care programs would take those protections away from many and risk financial ruin, denial of health care, or both.”

Jon Peacock and Sashi Gregory