Geographic Access to Healthcare for Rural Medicare Beneficiaries: An Update and National Look

Research center:
Lead researcher:
Project funded:
September 2016
Anticipated completion date:
July 2021

Rural residents generally use fewer medical services, travel farther for care and often have more problems accessing medical and surgical specialists than their urban counterparts. These issues can be particularly problematic for older rural Medicare beneficiaries who need specialist services or for whom long travel distances may pose challenges. Using the ZIP code pairs of the physician and patient we will calculate the travel time and distance for all encounters. Travel time and distance will be determined using the fastest road distance between the centroids of the physician and patient ZIP code. The rural or urban status of all patients will be assigned using Rural-Urban Commuting Area codes. Descriptive statistics will be reported on the number of patient encounters, travel time and travel distance overall and by rural-urban category (urban, large rural, small rural and isolated small rural). Additionally, travel time and distance will be reported for selected procedure codes and selected diagnosis codes. Analyses across rural area types will be conducted at national and census division levels.


  • Geographic Access to Health Care for Rural Beneficiaries in Five States: An Update
    Policy Brief
    WWAMI Rural Health Research Center
    Date: 04/2021
    Using data from five states, this study describes the mix of providers caring for rural Medicare beneficiaries, the quantity of care received, and how far rural beneficiaries traveled for care for several selected conditions in 2014. Results are also compared with a similar study of the same states that used data from 1998.