Study finds rural residents experienced greater gains from expanded Medicaid

    Joseph Benitez, Ph.D.
    Joseph Benitez, Ph.D.

    As officials continue to debate the future of government- subsidized health benefits, a University of Louisville study found the Affordable Care Act Medicaid expansion provided greater health coverage gains for people living in rural areas than for those in urban regions.

    Joseph Benitez, Ph.D., assistant professor, Department of Health Management and Systems Sciences, UofL School of Public Health and Information Sciences, recently published the results in The Journal of Rural Health.

    Using 2011-2015 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System data, the study compared trend changes for coverage, access to care, and health care utilization in response to Medicaid expansion among urban and rural residents living in the United States.

    Following Medicaid expansion, more low-income rural and urban residents signed up for health insurance, but the percentage was greater for rural regions with an 8.5-percent increase compared to a 4.1-percent uptake in urban settings.

    Even with Medicaid expansion, Benitez says cost-related barriers weighed more heavily on rural residents related to things like transportation to a medical provider. These expenses, he says, can be problematic for individuals who don’t live close to a viable provider supply.

    “Any efforts by the government to roll-back Medicaid expansion will certainly disproportionately affect the ability of rural residents to gain affordable coverage and access to care,” Benitez said.

    Julie Heflin
    Julie oversees digital content for the Office of Communications and Marketing. She began her UofL career on the Health Sciences Center campus in 2007. Prior to this, Julie was a journalist with WFPL (Louisville Public Media), and occasionally filed reports for National Public Radio.