Obamacare: What does it mean for rural folks?

farming freedom.inddObamacare, Obamacare, Obamacare. Sick of hearing about it? Well, don’t be, because most of its provisions are yet to be promulgated, and the Affordable Healthcare Act will have a far-reaching impact on rural America.
Obamacare became law March 23, 2010. The act’s anniversary is fast-approaching, and few people really know how it will impact them and their way of life, particularly rural folks. The Center for Rural Affairs (CFRA) in Lyons, Neb. has prepared information that may be helpful — for small business owners, rural communities, seniors on Medicare, for people with, and without, health insurance, and more.
Small businesses, the center said, will receive a tax credit (it actually started right away in 2010) for up to 35 percent of the cost of their health insurance — if they have fewer than 25 full-time employees, and their average wage is less than $50,000. The Small Business Health Calculator allows them to see the potential savings for their business.
Rural communities will benefit from the $11 billion (over five years) in increased funding for Community Health Centers, the center said. It is likely to double the number of patients seen at these clinics over the five years. There will also be new money for training programs to increase the number of primary care physicians, nurses and public health professionals — in underserved rural areas.
Seniors on Medicare, the CFRA said, will find that they qualify for co-payments for preventive services, something many elderly people have had no access to on any level, let alone in rural communities. That has been effective since 2011.
Perhaps even more cogent will be provisions that will be the closing of the infamous Medicare Part D “dougnut hole,” which the center noted can cost most seniors thousands of dollars, if they have substantial prescription drug requirements. In 2010, some of these seniors received a $250 rebate under Obamacare and in 2011 doughnut hole seniors became eligible for a 50 percent discount. By 2020, the donut hole will be a goner.
For people with health insurance, the Affordable Healthcare Act is a real boon. Several provisions that took effect Sept. 23, 2010, banned lifetime caps on insurance coverage, and also will heavily regulate annual limits until 2014, when they will be prohibited by the law.
Perhaps the most highly publicized of the changes, is the one that prohibits insurance companies from denying coverage to children with pre-existing conditions. The law also requires that preventive services be provided at no cost to consumers, and bans plans from dropping consumers when they get sick.

For young adults without insurance, the CFRA said the act extends the ability for parents to keep their children on their insurance plans until age 26. And, if you have no insurance, the act provides (since 2010) a temporary high-risk pool to provide immediate access to insurance for pre-existing conditions. The pool will remain in effect until 2014, when such discrimination will be banned altogether.
There are many other provisions in Obamacare, many of them due to begin soon, and whether you support the concept or not, as a rural American you should make yourself aware of just how this mammoth law will work — or not work — for you. One way is to contact the center for Rural Affairs at (402) 687-2100, or write to [email protected]
I’ll see ya.

An Iowa native, Peter Graham has been a rural newspaper editor for 40 years. He currently edits a twice-weekly paper in Western Iowa. You can contact him at (712) 642-2791 or [email protected] times.com.