COVID Exacerbates Rural-Urban Health Care Divide

By Consumers For Quality Care, on October 13, 2021

COVID Exacerbates Rural-Urban Health Care Divide

Rural Americans are now twice as likely to die of COVID-19 than those living in urban areas, according to Kaiser Health News.

Similar to the impact on Black and Hispanic communities, rural areas have been disproportionally impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. In September, rural areas had a 54 percent higher incidence rate of COVID-19, due in part to low vaccination rates, but also a lack of access to health care and health insurance.

The issues facing rural health care systems were compounded by the influx of COVID-19 patients over the last few weeks. As hospitals ran out of beds for heart attack or stroke patients, they began calling around to other hospitals to transfer patients.

With every hospital facing the same tidal wave of COVID-19 patients, everyone was out of luck, with patients ultimately suffering. Alan Morgan, head of the National Rural Health Association said, “From what I’m seeing, that mortality gap is accelerating.” In one Missouri county, COVID-19 patients rated as not “severely bad” were being sent home due to a lack of beds.

Even before the pandemic, rural America had a higher death rate – up to 20 percent more. Since 2005, 181 rural hospitals have closed. Policymakers must do more to ensure consumers from all communities have equal access to quality health care.