Community Success Stories: Clear information helps rural communities understand the benefits of the Affordable Care Act

By: Joyce A. Hospodar

This Rural Community Success Story is not about one rural community, but about a network of rural and urban organizations, that are each working on a variety of social issues which affect the people and communities of the rural Southwest. The Southwest Rural Policy Network (SWRPN) is comprised of 13 organizations in Arizona and New Mexico.  Its goal is to improve the lives of citizens living in the rural southwest.

When the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was passed, the SWRPN members decided that they needed to do everything they could to make it work successfully for people living in the rural southwest.  So in late 2012 they developed a simple guide to changes made possible by the ACA.  Entitled Know Your Healthcare Rights, there is an Arizona Version and a New Mexico version, both of which have been translated into Spanish. 

Know Your Healthcare Rights Brochure

Ready for distribution, all 906 pages of the ACA are boiled down into a simple  brochure that gives rural residents information about  their healthcare rights.

The fold-out brochure has no complicated details and no medical jargon. It was designed so that rural folks in the southwest could clearly understand the benefits of the ACA and identify the 12 top things they need to know to get themselves and their families the healthcare they deserve. 

Marty Newell, Chief Operating Officer at the Center for Rural Strategies, Whitesburg, Kentucky, (the organization that funded the initial development and dissemination of the brochure), praises the readability and clarity of the Know Your Healthcare Rights brochure, and recommends the text as an excellent starting point to talk about the ACA.

Based on the content of the brochure, thirteen 30-second Public Service Announcements (PSAs) have also been developed, in partnership with other rural regional networks around the country. The PSAs are free and downloadable in both English and Spanish at www.acaexplained.org.  

The brochure has been disseminated across both Arizona and New Mexico, as well as nationally. In Arizona alone, over 6,000 copies have gone to approximately 70 organizations who are giving them to the general public and also to some of their employees. Currently, the SWRPN is working with the Arizona’s Rural Women’s Health Network (AzRWHN) to print more brochures, with both the AzRWHN logo and the SWRPN logo, and continue the statewide rural outreach effort.

The Southwest Rural Policy Network is a voice for Health, Economic Justice, Social Justice and the Environment, all viewed within the rural context.  The combined energy of each member organization promotes a collaborative, multi-organizational approach, which takes the experience and expertise of diverse rural advocates and builds a comprehensive voice for the rural Southwest.  Originally funded under the W. K. Kellogg Foundation’s Rural People, Rural Policy Initiative, the members include:

Amigos Bravos
Taos, NM

Arizona Community Foundation/Arizona Rural Development Council
Phoenix, AZ

Catholic Community Services of Southern Arizona
Tucson, AZ

Children’s Action Alliance
Phoenix, AZ

DNA People’s Legal Services
Window Rock, AZ

Doña Ana County Colonias Development Council
Las Cruces, NM

International Sonoran Desert Alliance
Ajo, AZ

McKinley Community Health Alliance / Community Area Resource Enterprise (CARE 66)
Gallup, NM

New Mexico Voices for Children
Albuquerque, NM

Nogales Community Development Corporation
Nogales, AZ

Southwest Center for Economic Integrity
Tucson, AZ

Taos Health Systems
Taos, NM

The University of Arizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, Center for Rural Health 
Tucson, AZ

 

About the Author

Joyce Hospodar, MPA, MBA, has worked as the senior program coordinator of the Medicare Rural Hospital Flexibility (Flex) Program since 2001. She is responsible for providing technical assistance in gathering, organizing and presenting required data for rural Arizona hospitals seeking federal designation as a Medicare Critical Access Hospital (CAH) under the Flex program. hospodar@u.arizona.edu

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