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KBIA’s Health & Wealth Desk covers the economy and health of rural and underserved communities in Missouri and beyond. The team produces a weekly radio segment, as well as in-depth features and regular blog posts. The reporting desk is funded by a grant from the University of Missouri, and the Missouri Foundation for Health.Contact the Health & Wealth desk.

Rural Reads: On osteopathic physicians and access to insurance

Every Friday, KBIA’s Health and Wealth Desk curates the week’s most interesting (or so we think) articles and reports on rural health, wealth and society issues.

Osteopathic Physicians: An Answer To Rural Health Care Needs?

It’s no secret the U.S. is facing a shortage of primary care physicians – especially in rural areas, which is home to some 20 percent of all Americans, but only has 9 percent of all physicians. Compared to specialized medicine such as surgery and cardiology, primary care does not pay as well – and the average student loan debt for med school graduates is $161,290. Only about 24 percent of MD graduates lean to primary care. That’s not the case with recent osteopathic medicine graduates, though.  

About 60 percent of new osteopathic medicine graduates gravitate toward primary care, according to Ankita Rao of Kaiser Health News.

“Although their four-year training includes much of the conventional instruction that medical doctors, or MDs, receive, it also has a heavy focus on the musculoskeletal system and includes a technique called osteopathic manipulative treatment, similar to chiropractic and massage therapy.”

According to Rao, osteopathic programs recruit more rural applicants. More and more new osteopathic schools are opening up in rural areas.

Take the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine. Founded in 2003, the 1,100-student campus is located in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Blacksburg, Va. James Wolfe, president of Edward Via, said, “Our philosophy is ‘Recruit from, educate in, return to.’ ”

Health insurance hoops: One rancher’s story

Harvest Public Media’s Amy Mayer tells the story of one Nebraskan rancher who attempts to buy health insurance on her own for the first time. As mandated by the Affordable Care Act, individuals may be fined if they don’t have health insurance by January 2014.

The story not only highlights the difficulties of managing the hoops that come with purchasing health insurance, but also some issues that might come up as the online health insurance marketplace in all 50 states begins to accept enrollment by October 2013. A key component of the Affordable Care Act, the marketplaces are web-based stores where eligible, uninsured Americans can buy health insurance at a subsidized rate. But, as Amy Mayer points out, the web-based nature of the program could put people in rural areas with no reliable broadband at a disadvantage.

Quick hits:

Robot telemedicine - A physician in Topeka, Kan., gets help from a robot to deliver care to a patient in a hospital some 60 miles away. Watch that video here.

Rural areas still losing population – The Census Bureau says rural and exurban areas are dying off, as young adults leave to urban areas and leave behind an aging population. According to the Southeast Missourian, the Bootheel area sees bigger losses than the rest of the state, where many counties have more deaths than they do births.

Harum Helmy started as KBIA's Health and Wealth reporter in January 2013. She has previously worked at the station as a news assistant, helping assign and edit stories by student reporters. Harum grew up in Jakarta, Indonesia and graduated from MU with degrees in journalism and anthropology in 2011. She's trying to finish up an MA in journalism.
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