As 2017 begins, around 81 percent of Americans live in urban areas, up from 79 percent in 2000. At the same time, urban and suburban areas where vacant land exists (so, not you, San Francisco) have been expanding, redefining what used to be rural. With this demographic shift comes a transition of resources and tax bases that leave rural areas and rural services, including healthcare, struggling to survive.
Indeed, we can learn a lot about the state of rural healthcare from several access-related statistics:
– As of last year, more than 70 rural hospitals had closed since 2010 and 673 were vulnerable to closure, of which 68 percent were critical access. – The distance to hospitals in rural America is often much further than in urban areas, sometimes meaning the difference between life and death. – The number of doctors per 10,000 residents is 13.1 in rural areas and 31.2 in urban environments, simply making care harder to get. With regard to specialists per 100,000 residents, the average is 30 in rural areas and 263 in urban.
More generally, America’s rural population is older, makes less money, smokes more, is less healthy and uses Medicaid more frequently. All these factors dramatically complicate access issues and yield predictable results.