Medicaid is a vital source of health coverage nationwide, but the program's role is even more pronounced in small towns and rural areas. Medicaid covers a larger share of nonelderly adults and children in rural and small-town areas than in metropolitan areas; this trend is strongest among children. Demographic factors have an impact on this relationship: rural areas tend to have lower household incomes, lower rates of workforce participation, and higher rates of disability— all factors associated with Medicaid eligibility. In addition, the role of Medicaid has increased in the past few years both in small towns and rural areas and in metropolitan areas, given the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and more aggressive efforts to enroll children in Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Because Medicaid plays such a large role in small towns and rural areas, any changes to the program are more likely to affect the children and families living in small towns and rural communities.
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