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Rural Lives Matter:
Medicaid Expansion May Be Controversial
But It Will Save Rural Lives

... affordable health insurance and healthcare infrastructure
in rural communities

by Rhonda Perry
Columbia, Missouri

Three MRCC cancer survivors! Rhonda Perry, Janie Ellerbeck & Monica Fisher celebrate in Macon, Missouri.
Three MRCC cancer survivors! Rhonda Perry, Janie Ellerbeck & Monica Fisher celebrate in Macon, Missouri.
Rhonda Perry is a farmer and Program Director of the Missouri Rural Crisis Center.

I’m a 5th generation Missouri family farmer. And like many farmers, I purchased individual insurance in the private market for many years. In rural Missouri the options were limited and expensive. Although I never used the policy, my premiums doubled, and then doubled again. At some point, I could no longer afford to pay for insurance. Eventually, my organization was able to include healthcare coverage for employees. This literally saved my life.

Three years ago I was diagnosed with a very rare and deadly cancer. Even with good insurance, it had taken 3 years to identify and diagnose, which by then was a stage-4 cancer. Without health insurance, it’s very unlikely that I would have had access to the necessary specialists and tests that were able to find this hidden disease. After chemo, radiation, surgeries and hospital stays, I am now a cancer survivor.

After living nearly all my life in rural Missouri & now having had the opportunity to spend significant amounts of time in chemo rooms & cancer wards, I saw some important things. People drove hundreds of miles from rural areas to get treatment. Some traveled over 2 ½ hours every single day for radiation. People who didn’t have insurance and couldn’t afford specialists & testing that I was able to get, many times found the diagnosis & treatment was too late. These were some of the bravest people I have known. Through no fault of their own, they weren’t able to get the care they needed to save their lives.

These were not lazy people who did not want to work or pay for healthcare. They were rural people who worked hard every day in jobs that didn’t pay a lot and provided little or no health insurance, or couples who had small businesses with low profit margins or farmers who couldn’t get insurance because of pre-existing conditions. But they were part of their communities, their families and rural Missouri. Their lives are important.

In rural Missouri, we’re pretty independent, but we also watch out for each other in a crisis. We help drive our neighbors to the doctor, we hold fundraisers for their medical bills, we help take care of their cows when they are in the hospital, we take food to their house when they get home and we pray for them. But there are some things that we cannot do for our neighbors no matter how much we would like to. We can’t order the CAT scan, or the ultrasound-guided biopsy, or the PET scan, or the MRI. We can’t provide the chemo or radiation or other necessary treatments to save their lives. Those things require access to affordable health insurance & healthcare infrastructure in rural communities including hospitals, doctors, nurses & critical care facilities.

Medicaid Expansion is an opportunity for Missouri to create rural healthcare jobs and ensure that we have access to healthcare services that save lives. We can do this because rural lives matter. 
For more information, please contact the Missouri Rural Crisis Center:
  • (573) 449-1336

Also see:

Published in In Motion Magazine December 21, 2014