The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Opinion | Iowa must subsidize doctor travel

This is the solution to improving health care in rural areas.

Health care is unjustly scarce across rural Iowa.

In 2021, Statista reported around 6.8 percent of the state is uninsured in health care. The majority of the state, around 54.4 percent,  are insured through their employers.

To put that into perspective, Iowa has a population of nearly 3.2 million, which means there are over 217,000 Iowans who do not have consistent health care coverage. Of those people, many live in rural areas where quality care locations are few and far between.

This situation cannot be ignored. Health care should be guaranteed for all citizens, especially in difficult-to-reach rural areas. No one should have to suffer or die because the government deems them unworthy.

By all accounts, one of the best ways to improve health care in rural areas is to subsidize doctors’ travel to rural areas.

University of Iowa marketing professor Tom Gruca highlighted in his recent study that hiring physician specialists from out of the country and paying doctors for their travel to rural areas to provide care can help incentivize them.

Gruca states in the study that because there are under 200 practicing cardiologists in Iowa and around 2,000 cardiologists exiting the practice, but the number of cardiologists in the U.S. is expected to drop by 10 percent in the coming years.

Should that happen, rural areas would be affected the most should that happen.

Using these two policies, if doctors were subsidized to travel to rural areas, then Iowans would be able to have adequate access to health care.

On Sept. 18, 2023, the UI announced its goal to acquire state funding to focus on providing mental, maternal, and primary health care to rural areas.

Although the UI is asking for $10 million a year to expand access to medical screenings, telehealth for rural areas, and develop incentives in recruiting health care workers, the researchers from the aforementioned study have determined the price should be cheaper.

In reality, these policies would cost around $430,000 a year, which amounts to about $80 for each operating clinic per day. This may still appear expensive, but it has great potential to benefit taxpayers.

“This would be kind of a systemwide solution, and it would restore access and keep access in all the different cities that are currently enjoying that improved access in their hometowns,” Gruca told the Iowa Capital Dispatch in November 2023.

Iowa should subsidize travel for doctors not just for physical medical matters but also for mental health matters.

To put the issue into perspective, the National Alliance of Mental Illness has determined that as of 2021, over 473,000 adults in Iowa have a mental health condition, which is more than three times the population of Cedar Rapids.

Health care for rural areas will remain a persistent issue, however, unless Iowa can find a way to subsidize travel for doctors to people in need. Only then can the state severely tackle the danger of lack of health care in rural areas.

No one should have to suffer from a lack of health care.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.


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About the Contributor
Aaron El-Kerdani, Opinions Columnist
Fouad "Aaron" El-Kerdani is a third year student a the University of Iowa double majoring in Journalism and Cinema. Prior to joining The Daily Iowan, Aaron did some journalism work for his classess involving interviews, photography, video editing, traveling to another country to cover an event, and his experience in film classess helped him develop these skills and gain knowledge on camera work and writing.