Legislators Fight for Improvements in Rural Healthcare

Stabilizing the insurance marketplaces may benefit rural Americans.

The Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee recently held a hearing to discuss the current state of healthcare in the United States. During this meeting, Sen Tim Kaine (D-VA) expressed concern about the fate of healthcare in rural America, specifically Virginia, according to a press release.

This hearing followed a decision by Optima to cut its individual insurance offerings in the state due to uncertainty surrounding the Affordable Care Act. Previously, Optima considered filling the gaps left when Anthem withdrew from the marketplace.

Kaine urged against healthcare disparities observed in rural America and any actions that may destabilize the marketplace. The senator also called the bipartisan HELP Committee to fix the growing disparities between rural, suburban, and urban areas, according to the release.

“The Optima decision, the Anthem decision, is going to hit rural Virginia the hardest,” Kaine said during the hearing. “Virginia did not expand Medicaid, that has hit rural Virginia the hardest, and I think one of the issues we have to grapple with, and many of your states are facing this too, is we don’t want to become 2 nations separated between rural America and the rest of the country.”

Many counties are facing difficulties from having limited choices for insurance plans for 2018, with some only having 1 insurer selling plans.

Kaine and Sen Tom Carper (D-DE) also recently introduced the Individual Health Insurance Marketplace Improvement Act, which is reinsurance legislation that aims to stabilize the individual market and lower premiums. If implemented, this bill would be especially beneficial to Americans living in rural areas, according to the release.

“You can lower premiums, by [lowering] premiums you can bring in more young healthy people, and other people who just find affordability more attractive,” Kaine told the committee.

The senators said that the proposed legislation will be able to stabilize the marketplace through lower premiums, increased competition, and increased state funding. This law would be beneficial for residents of rural America, where there are fewer insurance choices.

“You can protect high risk people and you can also send a signal of stability to insurers that there will be a backstop against high cost claims, keeping them in the market. The strategies that we’re talking about here and that have been validated by, yesterday and today, 2 groups of bipartisan leaders at the state level are anything but ‘a bailout’ for anyone, they’re really designed to help people and to provide at least some temporary stability with a predictability that will enable us to find bigger picture items.”