Access to Health Care: Urban-Rural Comparisons from a Midwestern Agricultural State


Professor and Section Head, Nebraska Center for Rural Health Research, University of Nebraska Medical Center, 600 S. 42nd St., Omaha, NE 68198-4350.


Abstract: Lack of access to quality health care for a large number of Americans, particularly those living in rural areas, is a major health care problem. Differences in access between rural and urban areas are caused by obstacles to providing adequate care, such as hospital closures and physician shortages, and low income and/or employment that does not provide health insurance as an employee benefit. This study, based on a random sample of 6,000 households in Nebraska, finds that access to health care is better for residents of rural than urban areas. The relationship holds with controls for health status and health insurance. The pattern in Nebraska reflects an absence of differences in income, health insurance, and health status that produce differences in access between rural and urban areas nationwide. The findings suggest that any serious proposal to reform health care delivery should involve the states and use established patterns of seeking care among state residents.