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Forum Will Examine Issues Of Health Care And Medical Insurance In Rural Areas

Wisconsin farmers and their families, along with other rural self-employed and small business owners, tend to lack the kind of health insurance coverage that many Wisconsin residents take for granted. To examine this issue, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and UW-Extension will sponsor a public forum, “Meeting the Rural Health Care Challenge,” March 31 at Monona Terrace in Madison.

A dairy farm survey by the UW-Madison”s Program on Agricultural Technology Studies found that more than 40 percent of state dairy farmers are uninsured or have policies that do not cover all of their family members. “Even though this leaves 59 percent of Wisconsin dairy farmers with insurance,” says Carol Roth, PATS outreach specialist, “the majority of their policies do not include preventive care.”

This forum will identify the major concerns of not only finding health care in rural areas, but also being able to afford it. Affordability and access to health care affects individual families and the community as well. These health care concerns are not unique to just dairy farmers, but affect many others in rural communities as well, says Jeremy Foltz, PATS associate director. A feature of the forum will be to look at potential solutions, especially those that can be implemented at the local level.

Forum participants will hear what is happening in Wisconsin to address this issue. Rod Nilsestuen, Secretary, Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trace and Consumer Protection, will provide that perspective. They will also learn about the health care crisis facing many farmers, the lack of adequate health care services in rural areas, and the economic effects of health care on rural communities. A panel discussion will present a variety of rural perspectives on how those in rural areas are dealing with the health care crisis.

“There are examples of how some communities are addressing the health care challenges that they are faced with, ” says Foltz, “but there is not a one-size-fits-all solution.” Breakout session at the forum will explain how some rural communities are addressing health care challenges. Topics will include benefits counseling, faith-based initiatives, community health centers, cooperative approaches and insurance pooling.

In addition, all participants will receive a resource packet of information highlighting examples that focus on ways rural communities can address health care challenges. Organizers expect this forum to lay the groundwork for continued discussions about health care issues in rural Wisconsin.

“Meeting the Rural Health Care Challenge” is sponsored by the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison along with the University of Wisconsin – Cooperative Extension. Cost of the forum is $25. Scholarships are available. Participants can register on-line here. For more information, please contact Carol Roth, (608) 265-3463, or your local UW-Extension Office.

NOTE to EDITORS: Rod Nilsestuen, Secretary, Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trace and Consumer Protection will give the keynote speech at 10:15 a.m.