Access and Quality: Does Rural America Lag Behind?

July/August 2005
Health Affairs , Vol. 24, No. 4 (July/August 2005)
James D. Reschovsky, Andrea Staiti

Numerous state and federal programs and policies aim to improve rural health care. This study compares access to and quality of medical care in urban and rural areas from the perspective of physicians and patients, using a broad set of indicators taken from the 2000–2001 Community Tracking Study (CTS) Physician and Household Surveys. Across most dimensions examined, access and quality in rural areas—even rural counties not adjacent to metropolitan areas—were either equivalent or superior to that provided in urban areas. However, rural residents have greater difficulty obtaining mental health services and generally face greater financial barriers to care.

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