Rural Health

Complex Factors Create Lack of Health-Insurance Competition in Rural Areas

Aug 7, 2019
The small city of Hazard, Ky., shown Tuesday, May 26, 2015.
David Stephenson / Associated Press File Photo

If policymakers use market-based approaches to solve healthcare access problems, they need a better understanding of how rural markets work, says one researcher.

A lack of competition among health insurers in rural areas has reduced the ability of market-based approaches to increase insurance enrollment, a new study says.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, from 2017-2018, tobacco use among American youths rose by almost 40 percent. The culprit? E-cigarettes. Health reporter Kara Lofton takes a look at how vaping is reversing West Virginia’s slow progress toward fewer tobacco users.

Roger Cisco is a fairly new patient in the Williamson Health & Wellness Center’s community health program, which serves some of the clinic’s most high-risk patients for diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and/or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Anna Patrick / 100 Days in Appalachia

Kelly Browning doesn’t wait for Lyle Marcum to come to the door. She knocks and then pushes the glass door open, like she’s been there many times before.

Lyle stays where he is, sitting on a brown love seat, the TV on, and he calls for his dog, Lyla. “Get over here!” She’s running, excited, back and forth, her collar jingling until Kelly finds a leash, connects it to Lyla and slides the rope’s handle over a closet door knob. 

Polling by NPR finds that while rural Americans are mostly satisfied with life, there is a strong undercurrent of financial insecurity that can create very serious problems for many people living in rural communities.

The findings come from two surveys NPR has done with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health on day-to-day life and health in rural America.

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A CDC study released earlier this month found that rural Americans are dying at a higher rate from potentially preventable diseases than their urban counterpoints.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study looked at the five leading causes of death from potentially preventable diseases. They are heart disease, cancer, unintentional injuries, chronic lower respiratory disease and stroke. The study found that the percentages of deaths from these five diseases were higher in rural areas than urban areas.

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Telemedicine has been touted as a way to fill in some gaps in health care for rural residents.  But telemedicine relies on broadband service, which parts of Appalachia still don’t have.

“Without broadband, you don’t have telemedicine,” said nurse practitioner Lindsey Kennedy. Kennedy manages the telemedicine program at Bland County Medical Center in southwestern Virginia.  

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The West Virginia office of Rural Health will receive nearly $200,000 in federal funding intended to help workforce development and provider placement in rural, underserved areas.

U.S. Senator Joe Manchin said in a press release Thursday he hopes the grant will improve access to healthcare for rural communities throughout West Virginia.

According to the Health Resources and Services Administration, it would take 25 percent more providers than are currently available in West Virginia to meet the state’s rural healthcare needs.

www.wvuniversityhealthcare.com

Jefferson Medical Center in Ranson has been designated one of the top 100 critical access hospitals in the country according to a new study.

The study compared factors such as outcomes, quality and cost in rural and critical access hospitals across the country. Just one West Virginia hospital came out as a top performer nationwide. Meanwhile 12 West Virginia Hospitals are doing so poorly that they are vulnerable for closure.

Health Wagon
Kara Lofton / WVPB

In Appalachia, barriers to healthcare include distance from a provider, lack of transportation, lack of health insurance, and the inability to take the time off of work to drive, wait and be seen. So throughout the region, mobile health units are attempting to bridge that gap and bring services to some of the populations that need them the most.

Outside of an old train station in southwestern Virginia, Teresa Gardner and Paula Hill-Meade are seeing patients.

West Virginia Geological and Economic Survey
West Virginia Geological and Economic Survey / West Virginia Geological and Economic Survey

The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection hosted a public hearing in Charleston to discuss a new air quality permit for natural gas facilities in the state. Some wish the DEP would use the permit writing process to incorporate suggestions from scientists who have studied air around gas facilities.


Daniel Walker

Residents in several McDowell County communities are one step closer to safe, public water. The Elkhorn Regional Water Project will replace two water systems that date back about 70 or 80 years. 


Ashton Marra / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

West Virginia faces a multitude of challenges when it comes to providing healthcare to its citizens. Because of its rural nature, many citizens face a lack of access to healthcare facilities, healthful foods and places to exercise.

But a recent forum at West Virginia University uncovered problems even more complex, problems with recruitment, public education and cooperation between healthcare providers.

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Often referred to as, ‘the greatest job in the world’, taking care of a child with special needs can be challenging for parent. Parents of children in Mercer County have formed their own support group. 

Living in rural areas often means living significant distances from medical specialists, and sometimes treatment. For example the best form of treatment for Autism is applied behavioral analysis. While there are limited specialists across the state, there is not a single specialist south of Charleston in West Virginia.