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Rural Iowans More Probable to Have Health Insurance

Rural Iowans are more likely to have health insurance than Iowans who live in or close to cities and large towns, a new statewide survey says. Moreover, even though they live further from big hospitals, rural residents say they have good access to medical services.

The survey done on behalf of the Iowa Rural Health Association and was scheduled to be released. It also found that Iowans are more likely to have chronic health problems if they are older, poorer or less educated. However, it found no difference between the rates of chronic health problems among rural Iowans and their urban counterparts.

Association board member Bill Applegate said one of the most encouraging findings was that 88 percent of Iowans acknowledged that they could cut their health-care costs by improving their health behaviors. Applegate, a vice president at Des Moines University said, "That's an absolutely shockingly wonderful piece of information." Applegate is an expert on chronic health problems, and he is looking for ways to encourage people to take care of themselves before they become critically ill.

The association is made up of rural health-care professionals, including doctors, nurses, dentists and hospital administrators. It spent approximately $39,000 on the first-of-its-kind survey, as it wanted a clearer picture of how Iowans perceive their health care.

The surveys of 1,000 Iowa adults found that 95percent of rural residents have health insurance, compared with 89 percent of non-rural residents. Rural people's policies tended to be more limited, but rural people are just as probable to say they are satisfied with their policies.

Association President Cece Arnold speculated that rural residents' declared satisfaction with their insurance and their access to health care reflect a stoic outlook. She said, "It's this pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps mentality."

Ann Selzer, the pollster who directed the survey, said the finding that rural residents are more likely to be insured probably is partly because rural areas tend to have more senior citizens, who qualify for Medicare.

The survey also asked about how healthy Iowans felt. Eighty-five percent said they feel good about their health, even though 36percent accounted having a chronic health problem, such as diabetes, arthritis or depression.

People with lower incomes were much more likely to have a chronic health problem. Applegate said that is a common finding, although he said it is not clear whether wealth helps ward off disease or if disease prevents people from becoming wealthy.



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