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Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius recently released a report detailing health care challenges in rural America. Hard Times in the Heartland was developed by HH staff.

The report indicates that nearly 50 million people in rural America face challenges accessing health care. Not only do these Americans face higher rates of poverty, they report more health problems, are more likely to be uninsured, and have less access to primary health care providers than do Americans living in urban areas. The report notes:

* Nearly one in five of the uninsured — 8.5 million people — live in rural areas.
* Rural residents pay on average for 40 percent of their health care costs out of their own pocket, compared with the urban share of one-third.
* In a multi-state survey, one in five insured farmers had medical debt.

The Hard Times report also details statistics relating to lack of access to quality providers in rural communities as well as the disparities of needs of rural patients. Diabetes, obesity, heart disease and high blood pressure are more common in rural communities.

“Americans in rural communities have seen their premiums skyrocket and are finding it difficult, if not impossible to get the care they need,” Secretary Sebelius said. “Today’s report confirms that we cannot wait to enact comprehensive health reform.”

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