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A time to act

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By JOHN CRABTREEMedia DirectorThe Center for Rural Affairs

In the early hours of Monday, Dec. 21, the U.S. Senate voted, 60 to 40, to invoke cloture and bring the Senate health care reform debate to a close. Two Independents voted with 58 Democrats to advance a bill that would provide quality health coverage with affordable premiums to more family farmers, ranchers, rural small business owners, workers and many others.

The bill serves rural Americans, who have had greater difficulty with the cost of insurance, very well. And rural communities would benefit from provisions to maintain small hospitals and increase the number of rural doctors and other medical professionals.

Health care coverage matters, particularly for rural people. They receive fewer preventive services, leading to more serious and more chronic conditions.  Moreover, uninsured Americans receive about half the preventive services and medical care that insured Americans receive.

Many chronic conditions are easily treated, but lethal if not diagnosed and controlled through prescribed treatments that may be unavailable to the uninsured. With higher rates of chronic diseases, lower rates of preventive services and lower rates of insurance, rural Americans are more likely to suffer the consequences of a lack of diagnosis, treatment and control of those chronic diseases.

The Senate bill is not perfect, but it is a large and historic first step toward reform. And the House and Senate conference committee is another opportunity to improve upon the best provisions in both bills. Americans have been talking about health care reform for over a century. It is time to act.

Editor’s Note: The Center for Rural Affairs was established in 1973 as an unaffiliated nonprofit corporation under IRS code 501(c)3. The Center for Rural Affairs was formed by rural Nebraskans concerned about family farms and rural communities, and works to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities. 

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