THE BLOG
11/30/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Rural Communities Need Health Care Reform More Than Anyone

The lie that health care reform would hurt rural communities has been one to which progressives and moderates have been slow to respond, perhaps because there have been so many myths and distortions to keep us busy. The extreme right clearly believes that the only way they can win the health care reform debate and stop change in its tracks is tell one whopper after another. From 1950-esque claims of socialism to the mythological death panels, they've shown no remorse in simply scaring people with out-and-out falsehoods.

In no case has this been more obvious than the fairytale that somehow health care reform would be bad for people who live in rural areas. Quite the contrary, rural areas have the highest proportion of both uninsured and under-insured. The numbers are discussed in an excellent Los Angeles Times article:

"The states that tend to be more conservative have a higher rate of people who are uninsured," said Ron Pollack, executive director of FamiliesUSA, which backs a health care overhaul. As a result, health care reform is going to provide a disproportionate amount of resources to those states."

In Wyoming, for example, nearly one in three people younger than 65 went without health insurance at some point during the last two years, according to Pollack's group. A huge majority of the uninsured have jobs, but work for employers who don't provide coverage.

It's rural America that stands to benefit the most from a public option. Not merely because universal access will disproportionately benefit such areas, but because many rural states simply have no competitive market for health insurance. A recent report illustrated that 94 percent of the health insurance markets in the United States are "highly concentrated." Where is the problem the worst? In small and rural states. Lack of competition means higher premiums, and it also means larger numbers of people being frozen out of access to health care. If you live in a region with only one major provider of insurance, you have no place to go when you get turned down for a preexisting condition.

A group of videographers recently traveled to state fairs around rural America to record the health care stories of ordinary Americans. Their simple, heartfelt stories stand in sharp contrast to the outrageous and insurance lobby-orchestrated extremism at town halls that has captured the imagination of the mainstream media. How different the debate might be if the media was interested in facts rather than antics. For instance, how many American's have heard stories like these:

Ronda Hilker from Nebraska had this to say:

My husband and I are honest, hardworking, tax paying, land owning, US citizens who used to have what we thought to be "good health coverage." We had paid our premiums faithfully on time every month for nearly 17 years, to later learn our hospital claims were denied! We are left with massive medical debt, and this was with insurance. Yes, we thought we had great insurance up until the time we actually needed it for a farm-related accident! Something must be done to hold these companies, doctors and hospitals accountable. People are literally dying from health related accidents/illness that could have been prevented with prompt, caring and adequate health care.

The huge need for real health care reform that contains a public insurance option for all Americans makes it all the sadder that rural state senators like Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, have essentially given up on bi-partisan health care reform negotiations. Instead, many have chosen to spread falsehoods about the President's plan. They need to hear more from the real people in this debate who have much to benefit from reform. For now, it seems they are preoccupied with counting the money they have received from health insurance industry lobbyists. A reality that is made clear in this advertisement:

The extreme right and big health insurance lobbies are coming together in an effort to tear us apart. Their strategy is to sow fear and divide rural from urban, black from white and low income from high income. We face a critical moment: we can either give in to the old politics of fear and division, or we can rededicate ourselves to renewing America by moving forward together as one nation. Unless we stand up to the "No We Can't Coalition," all of the hope and possibility of President Obama's election will disappear before our eyes.

Get involved and make yourself heard!