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Rural areas face more healthcare hurdles

Star Tribune, July 27, 2011

Residents of rural areas in Minnesota and across the nation are more likely to have chronic diseases and face hurdles to getting quality care, according to a UnitedHealth Group report that calls for new approaches to rural care. A study the Minnetonka-based insurer is releasing Wednesday documents an increasingly urgent need to recruit caregivers to less populated outposts and to explore ways that technology can be used to enhance care. "The reality is rural healthcare is under pressure," said Simon Stevens, a UnitedHealth vice president and chair of the company's Center for Health Reform and Modernization, which released the study. "Given the number of people coming into healthcare coverage in the next several years, that pressure is going to increase." UnitedHealth, the nation's largest insurer by revenue, said it plans to use the report as a way to get public officials to focus on rural issues, improve quality and reduce costs. This is the sixth report from the center, which draws on data from the company's nationwide network of insurance plans.