Q: What about rural regions of the country? Hospitals in rural counties are having trouble staying open forcing patients to drive long distances to access care. How is the insurance coverage gap exacerbating this problem? | Physicians For Fair Coverage

A: We are facing a serious problem in that patients in rural America are having problems accessing health care services. According to the National Rural Health Association, for example, the patient-to-primary care physician ratio in rural areas is only 39.8 physicians per 100,000 people, compared to 53.3 physicians per 100,000 in urban areas. This uneven distribution of physicians has an impact on the health of the population. This of course does not factor in socioeconomic and other underlying issues. 

The surprise insurance gap threatens to create an immense hole in the community, leaving those who need emergency services vulnerable. Consider what happens when the insurance company narrows its physician networks forcing emergency department physicians out of network in the only hospital in a rural county. It can leave the people in a county with limited access to emergency services, forcing some to drive long distances to find emergency care. That’s not exactly the definition of emergency services. Emergency care needs to be there – and close by – when you need it. It also creates a huge burden on families who must drive long distances to help their loved ones. It’s a terrible, dangerous problem that needs to be fixed. 

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