Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Excitement in the Air: Healthcare!

There has been so much excitement about healthcare that our entries have slowed down. But I wanted to pass along a key resource and indicate that we have heard from supporters of My Rural America about their enthusiasm for the actions of the Congress to extend healthcare to 32 million Americans over the next several years. Supporters with children with disabilities are especially pleased that within the next several months they may be able to obtain health insurance for them. Individuals who have lived with fear that their insurance company would throw them off their insurance or they would pass a "lifetime cap" are breathing easier.

For those interested in seeing the full information packets available from the authors of the healthcare reform we are posting a link: We are not posting all the links that become available under that address - look for your particular interests.

Of course, this is not the end of this debate. The Senate is considering the Reconciliation bill that will clarify and remedy some of the issues in the just signed bill. And as supporters of My Rural America know opponents of healthcare reform have launched efforts to repeal the just signed law and to file lawsuits they hope will carry them to the U.S. Supreme Court in opposition to healthcare reform.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Transition at My Rural America

This is an exiting time at My Rural America

Change at the Top: First, we want to congratulate our Founder, Barbara Leach, on her recent appointment as Associate Administrator of the Risk Management Administration within the Farm and Foreign Services mission area of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In this critical management position, we are sure that Barb will continue her hard work for rural America by carrying out the Obama administration’s objectives to bring effective crop insurance and other risk products to farmers in our country.

We will miss her leadership, but are very pleased that she will move to a position where she can help all of rural America. We deeply appreciate Barb’s record of accomplishment in identifying the need for MRA, and in achieving the start-up of our outreach and educational efforts as well as performing the research that made our efforts so effective across rural America, particularly in New Hampshire, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Ohio, Wyoming and North Carolina.

New Leadership at MRA: My Rural America’s preparation for this change began on October 28th with the election of Caren Wilcox as President of My Rural America. Wilcox previously served as Vice President of MRA’s Board of Directors. Caren’s experience includes service as Deputy Under Secretary at USDA from 1997 to 2001. She has worked almost all her life in food production, while members of her family live, farm and ranch in rural communities of the West and the Northeast.

Larry Mitchell who has been serving on the Advisory Committee of MRA has been elected Vice President of the Board, and Lloyd Wright has agreed to remain the Secretary/Treasurer of the organization. You can remind yourself of their wonderful backgrounds in agriculture and rural development by going to our website at and clicking on the About Us page.

It is the intention of your new Executive Committee to identify others who have been supportive of the strong mission of My Rural America and to ask them to join the Board of My Rural America in the very near future.

We hope that those of you involved in My Rural America via our website, this blog and in our outreach efforts in various states, will send us your advice and counsel as we move to this new stage of our organization. We want to hear from you and you can send messages to:

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Healthcare Reform Hits the U.S. Senate Floor

On Wednesday, Nov. 18, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid revealed an $848 billion plan for health care reform. As proposed, the package would extend health care coverage to 31 million people. The Congressional Budget Office determined that the Senate bill would cut federal deficits by $130 billion over the next decade. The plan is the most cost effective legislation presented by the House or Senate this year. Sixty Senators voted to bring a bill to the floor of the Senate for debate, and this debate is expected to occur between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The current proposed bill before the Senate promises to address key issues with health care in rural America.
  • As individuals living all over rural America know all too well, access to health care benefits and treatment is a huge challenge.
  • Individuals living in rural America are less likely to get preventive care, such as testing for cancer or routine reviews to reduce damage from diabetes.
  • One in five farmers is in medical debt. Half of those living in rural America pay for their health insurance costs out of their own pockets without insurance back-up.
  • Others who can buy insurance must do it directly from an insurance company because they cannot be a part of an employee group to keep insurance costs lower.
  • If a rural American or a member of his family suffers from heart disease and or diabetes, they are likely to be denied coverage under the current system because they are considered to have a “pre-existing condition.”
  • In small rural towns, where more than a third of rural Americans work, the small businesses struggle to cover employees in an under served environment or simply do not offer health benefits to employees.

The health care bill under consideration in the U.S. Senate moves to solve or improve many of these problems for rural Americans.

One of the most important issues in rural America is accessibility, which the proposal will improve. Approximately 65 million Americans lack access to a primary care provider because of shortages, and this is a particular challenge in rural America where people have to drive long distances to receive care. Health reform will invest in expanding the health care workforce to ensure that people in rural areas have access to doctors, nurses and high quality health care.

Health insurance reform legislation will expand tele-health services so rural Americans can access consultations for specialty care, as well as support ground and air ambulance services to quickly transport people to health care facilities during these critical times. Health insurance reform will also improve trauma care systems, which are essential in rural areas and across the nation.

Another important piece of the plan will give people the power to choose what is best for them and their families with the public option. In many rural states, one insurance company dominates more than 80 percent of the market. This means that there are often only one or two insurance companies offering health plans to families. With a competitive public option, Americans will have increased choices and increased competition that holds private insurers accountable. This public option is not intended for individuals already covered by employer health benefits, and can be particularly important to expand options for individuals not covered by such plans in rural America.

One-third of farmers can only purchase health insurance directly from an insurance company, more than three times the national average, which leads to higher costs and less security. The ability to choose will greatly reduce costs, increase security and ensure people are paying for what they need. Health reform will also prevent insurance companies from denying coverage based on pre-existing health conditions, which is currently a common practice of insurance companies.

As important as treatment of illness is, prevention may be even more critical. Identifying diseases early on is vital to treatment and recovery. Health reform will ensure coverage of preventative treatments to avoid disease, keeping Americans healthier and reducing the need for expensive treatments and medications.

There are clearly still issues that need to be worked out. The coming debate in the U.S. Senate is a step in the right direction; to ensure all Americans, especially those in rural America, receive the health care they need and deserve.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Health Care Reform Puts Big Focus on Small Business

On Tuesday, October 27, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Senator Kay Hagan of North Carolina held a conference call to discuss a new report, More Choices, Better Coverage: Health Insurance Reform and Rural America. The report examines heath care in rural areas and the need for health insurance reform.

In Virginia, small businesses make up 71 percent of Virginia businesses but, only 48 percent of them offered health coverage benefits in 2006. 600,000 Virginia workers were without health insurance in 2008 and the number continues to rise.

One of the key elements of the reform plan is offering a tax credit to the self employed and small businesses with 50 employees or less, so they can afford to provide coverage for employees. Reform will also provide scholarships, grants, and loan repayments to doctors and nurses who practice in under served areas so that all Americans can have access to health care.

“Americans who live in rural communities have a harder time finding the doctor they need and getting the care they deserve and their health suffers” said Sebelius. “…Reform will improve access to high quality care in rural communities and help give all Americans the stable, secure care they need.”

The report notes many of the discrepancies in health insurance in rural areas. Rural Americans pay for nearly half of their health care costs out of their own pocket, and one out of every five farmers is in medical debt.

With the new health insurance exchange proposal, people can easily compare insurance prices and health plans and decide which quality affordable option is right for them and their family. These proposals will help the 1,070,600 residents of Virginia who currently do not have health insurance to obtain needed coverage, and it will also help the 300,000 Virginia residents who currently purchase insurance in the individual insurance market to find affordable prices without sacrificing quality.

Rural Americans simply cannot afford health insurance and deserve better. President Obama is committed to working with Congress to pass health reform this year that will reduce cost, provide choices and insure all Americans quality and affordable health care.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Broadband Availability Lacks Where It's Needed Most

As broadband communication becomes more and more important, so does the lack of availability of it in rural areas. A report on highlights Michael J. Copps, the acting chair of the FCC, and his support of the government stepping up to aid the development of broadband in rural America. "Relying on market forces alone will not bring robust and affordable broadband services to all parts of rural America," he writes. "Therefore, all levels of government should explore ways to help overcome the high costs of rural broadband deployment."

Broadband access is particularly important in rural areas especially when it comes to health care. Telemedicine is a rapidly developing application of clinical medicine where medical information is transferred through the phone or the Internet and sometimes other networks for the purpose of consulting, and sometimes remote medical procedures or examinations. Telemedicine is most beneficial for populations living in isolated communities and remote regions who do not have access to certain specialists and equipment.Telemedicine allows a doctor in a rural area to send vital information such as x-rays, to a specialist hundreds of miles away to insure a patient receives the best possible treatment.The use of telemedicine is impossible without broadband.

More information on broadband accessibility in Virginia