Twenty-five percent of Americans live in what is considered a rural area, according to the National Rural Health Association. However, only 10 percent of our nation’s physicians serve these areas. That is an astounding one-quarter of Americans who have fewer healthcare providers, fewer healthcare facilities, and increased difficulty in finding affordable and accessible healthcare. Such trends have dangerous repercussions. Rural regions have “higher death rates due to heart disease, stroke and cancer…They also have higher rates of smoking, diabetes and low birth-weight babies, and higher rates of uninsured…and rural areas have chronic shortages of primary care physicians.” The economic and medical ramifications of rural healthcare have made a number of the political elite in predominantly rural states take note. Opinion Savvy conducted a survey on behalf of the Healthcare Georgia Foundation that focused specifically on the rural healthcare issues facing Georgia rural residents, including affordability of care and access to care. Most rural Georgia residents stated that they have experienced problems with the affordability of health insurance and the cost of health care. When asked what Georgia communities needed most, half of those surveyed stated that they needed a health center, or clinic, which would provide free or reduced cost healthcare regardless of insurance status. “Cost is a killer in rural areas,’’ said Jimmy Lewis, CEO of HomeTown Health, an organization of rural hospitals in Georgia. “Many are retired or on fixed incomes. That’s why they want clinics.” Without clinics, many rural residents seek care at area emergency departments – if they are available. The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) analyzed emergency department visits and hospital admissions during 2012, and found almost 1.3 million “potentially preventable” visits. In other words, these emergency departments treated health issues that could have been potentially preventable through more timely access to primary care, improved care coordination, and better medication management. The total cost of these avoidable health issues reached approximately $2 billion for Minnesota that year. State leaders have begun to attack rural healthcare issues under a unifying theme; that distance should be no barrier to access. Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal has backed a pilot program that is using telemedicine to facilitate remote diagnoses of patients in rural areas. Governor Robert Bentley of Alabama recently signed an executive order creating a 38 member Alabama Health Care Improvement Task Force comprised of doctors, medical school leaders, hospital administrators, government officials, and other medical health professionals. The goal is to ensure affordable and accessible healthcare to every citizen, regardless of location or income disparity. Such recommendations could include telemedicine, increased medical resources to rural areas such as through health centers, and scope-of-practice revisions for nurse practitioners and other advanced practitioners.