New report: Mainers in rural communities count on Medicaid the most

New report: Mainers in rural communities count on Medicaid the most

A new report shows Medicaid is vital to ensure that rural Mainers and families across the nation have access to the care they need to stay healthy.

The Georgetown University Center for Children and Families finds 38 percent of children in rural Maine are on Medicaid for their health care coverage, compared with 30 percent in metro areas.

Vanessa Santarelli, CEO of the Maine Primary Care Association, says if Congress goes forward with proposed Medicaid cuts, the result could be the loss of a bundle of services health centers are currently able to provide for children.

“You know, if we didn’t receive these adequate reimbursements through programs like Medicaid and Medicare, our health centers would find it very challenging to be able to keep their doors open for all of the rural communities and residents that we serve,” she stresses.

Santarelli notes that Maine was not among the states that opted to expand Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act. She says that is likely a major factor in why the state saw the number of uninsured children in the report rise from 6 percent in 2009 to 7 percent uninsured in 2015.

Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, says this means more than a trillion dollars in proposed cuts to Medicaid would have an outsized impact on people who live in rural communities.

“Children and families living in small towns and rural areas risk losing access to health care and their protection from rising health care costs as Medicaid funding is cut, as congressional leaders are currently thinking about,” she states.

One bright spot in the report is that 19 percent of adults in Maine have Medicaid coverage compared with 13 percent in metro counties. Santarelli says that should pay off for rural children down the road.

“When parents have coverage, and when they are able to see a primary care provider, there’s a stronger likelihood that their children will also have regular visits, and well checkups, and that sort of thing,” she explains.

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