Rebalancing Health Care in the Heartland forum set for Dec. 1

University of Iowa’s Rebalancing Health Care in the Heartland Forum 9 & Iowa Rural Health Association 2016 Annual Conference

“Delivering the Vision of Comprehensive Health Services in Rural Iowa”

A Partnership of the University of Iowa’s Health Policy Council and the Iowa Rural Health Association

December 1, 2016
Holiday Inn – Airport, Des Moines
8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Registration and more information

Health care delivery throughout the country and Iowa is undergoing rapid and significant transformation. In addition to expanding coverage to millions of previously uninsured individuals, the ACA ushered in a new era of delivery system reform focused on value-based care versus volume and fee for service payment impacting all of Iowa’s rural and urban providers.

Join us as we bring together local and national providers and health policy experts to discuss the impact the new alternative payment models, the expansion of telehealth, and the Medicare Access & CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA) enacted last year by Congress will have on a rural state like Iowa.


UI researcher: Rural areas face higher health insurance premiums

Keith Mueller
Keith Mueller

Premiums for health plans offered through insurance marketplaces are expected to increase substantially in the coming year, but a new report co-authored by a University of Iowa health policy researcher shows that rural areas of the United States already face higher premiums compared to urban places, and the gap appears to be widening.

Keith Mueller, professor and head of health management and policy at the University of Iowa College of Public Health, joined colleagues from the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis in a study of data on 2016 premiums from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, as well as information compiled from state-based marketplaces. They found that premiums had increased disproportionately in rural areas. The data differed from previous years, when urban and rural premium increases did not show a consistent pattern.

The researchers cautioned that their study focused only on premiums without accounting for subsidies and other cost-sharing adjustments that reduce the actual cost of insurance coverage for the majority of consumers.

The researchers found average adjusted premiums in rural counties are higher than in urban counties, with a widening gap in 2016 for both federally operated marketplaces and state-based marketplaces. In 2016, rural averages in the federally operated marketplaces were $306, compared to urban averages of $287. In the state-based marketplaces, rural averages were $285, compared to urban averages of $245.

Health insurance marketplaces, also known as exchanges, were established under the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA) as a resource for individuals, families, and small businesses to access, compare, and purchase health insurance plans. The exchanges are intended to restrain premium increases by encouraging competition among health plans.

The researchers also observed a disparity between rural and urban areas in terms of the number of insurance companies participating in exchanges. In 2016, urban counties had an average of 4.2 firms participating, while rural counties had an average of 3.2 firms participating.

“If premiums are higher in areas with less competition among firms, and less competition is occurring in rural areas, then there is a differential in premiums that is affecting people based upon where they live,” the researchers noted.

The report was conducted by the RUPRI Center for Rural Health Policy Analysis, based in the University of Iowa College of Public Health. This study was supported by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy in the Health Resources and Services Administration, under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  The full report is available on the RUPRI website.

College hosts IDPH Center for Rural Health and Primary Care advisory committee

On Monday, March 7, the College of Public Health was pleased to host a meeting of the advisory committee for the Iowa Department of Public Health’s Center for Rural Health and Primary Care. The centerpiece of the meeting were presentations on Rural Health Policy by Keith Mueller, professor and head of health management and policy, and Chuck Fluharty, clinical professor of health management and policy and CEO of the Rural Policy Research Institute (RUPRI).

“These presentations provided a global framing of rural issues and how to address emergent issues in rural health,” said Mueller. “The meeting was an excellent opportunity to showcase some of the unique rural policy expertise in the College of Public Health.”

Mueller’s presentation focused on major changes occurring in clinical and primary care, including rising rates of insurance coverage, new payment models that shift incentives from volume to value, and ongoing efforts to build high-performance health systems.

Fluharty’s presentation focused on rural innovation and opportunities for collective impact beyond the health sector. Fluharty discussed the need for regional policies that align rural and urban interests, while highlighting several RUPRI initiatives that are contributing to the development of thriving rural communities. One such initiative, a collaboration between RUPRI and Art of the Rural, engages artists, organizations, and communities in crafting strategies that foster rural economic and community development. More information can be found online at .