Medicalization of Rural Poverty: Challenges for Access

8 Pages Posted: 21 Feb 2018 Last revised: 17 Oct 2018

See all articles by Elizabeth Weeks

Elizabeth Weeks

University of Georgia School of Law

Date Written: February 20, 2018


This article was prepared for a live conference, on “The Medicalization of Poverty,” held at the University of Illinois College of Law, and a symposium to be published in the Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics. My piece focuses on a constellation of challenges for health care delivery and access to care in rural areas. Discussions regarding health and poverty often seem to focus on the admittedly persistent and multilayered problems of the urban poor: unemployment, substandard and unaffordable housing, violent crime, nutrition and “food desserts,” recreation and safe outdoor spaces, and under-resourced public schools, to name a few. While cities certainly constitute population centers for poverty, we should not confine our discussion to that context. Rural poverty and rural health disparities present additional, unique concerns for the medicalization of poverty. Access to medical care is particularly challenging in rural areas for an array of reasons, including financial pressures leading to rural hospital closures, difficulty recruiting physicians and other providers to work rural areas, lack of reliable transportation, inadequate broadband support for telemedicine, insurance premiums under geographic rating areas, and non-expansion of Medicaid. This paper provides a broad-brush survey of issues for rural health care access and strategies being developed to address them.

Keywords: health law, rural poverty, rural health, health care, access, delivery, consolidation, Medicaid expansion, telemedicine

JEL Classification: K32, I10, I11, I13, I14, I15, I18

Suggested Citation

Leonard, Elizabeth, Medicalization of Rural Poverty: Challenges for Access (February 20, 2018). 46 Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics 651 (2018).; University of Georgia School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2018-06. Available at SSRN:

Elizabeth Leonard (Contact Author)

University of Georgia School of Law ( email )

225 Herty Drive
Athens, GA 30602
United States


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