Iowa’s Medicaid Expansion Benefits Small Town, Rural Residents

Public News Service

By: Roz Brown

Since Iowa expanded its Medicaid program in 2013, more low-income rural residents are covered by health insurance. A new report from Georgetown University shows that coverage gaps in states where Medicaid was expanded are much smaller than in states that did not expand. Anne Discher, executive director of the Child and Family Policy Center with the Iowa Department of Human Services, says only 15 percent of Iowa’s low-income rural residents were uninsured in 2016. That’s compared with a nationwide high of 47 percent in neighboring South Dakota, which chose not to expand.

Study co-author Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, says the uninsured rate for low-income adults has dropped much faster in states that expanded Medicaid. She notes that unlike some states where the gap between metro-area uninsured residents and rural residents is significant, Iowa is nearly equal. “And rural areas are struggling for a lot of reasons,” she states. “They already have a higher poverty rate. Oftentimes they have higher unemployment rates. And so being uninsured is just adding another woe to these struggling communities.”

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