Journal of Rural Health 14:169-179, 1998.
This article has provided a conceptual framework regarding the implications of a growing MCO presence in rural areas. This framework addresses factors likely to influence the degree of MCO presence in any given rural community, as well as the possible effects of that presence on rural consumers, employers, providers, and the uninsured. These factors vary across communities and will result in variation in the nature and importance of MCOs among rural communities. The arguments and considerations presented are based on analysis of MCO, employer, and consumer behavior, informed by research findings relating to MCOs in urban areas. The issues discussed raise a number of questions that deserve to be addressed through empirical research focused specifically on rural populations. The appendix contains a summary list of these questions. The next article reviews the results of existing research studies as they bear on these research questions and other issues raised in this article.