In terms of demographic composition, the typical rural Medicare recipient is not very different from his or her urban counterpart. Slightly less wealthy and less educated, rural beneficiaries also are more likely to live alone.
But the biggest disparity lies not in the make-up of the population, but in the levels of Medicare reimbursement received by rural areas. And that's becoming a pressing issue for rural lawmakers as official Washington prepares to take new action on Medicare.
A Medicare reform bill due out of Congress next week will include coverage of prescription drugs, but there are still concerns over the discrepancies in the payments made to care professionals in rural areas.
For example, the national average reimbursement per enrollee is $5,490. In Iowa, its $3,053, 44% less … despite the fact that Iowans pay the same Medicare payroll tax rate as other Americans.
The disparity in Medicare reimbursements to physicians is just one issue facing many health care services in rural America. Recruitment of physicians to the countryside can be hindered, depending on the community, by other factors including: a small population, a declining and disproportionately older population, low household incomes, and a high population lacking health insurance.
Physicians also are often isolated from their peers and despite the increase accessibility to telemedicine …the nearest specialty care can be a great distance away.