The Center for Rural Affairs recently released a report examining how the Affordable Care Act (ACA) impacts rural seniors (www.cfra.org/news/131108/rural-seniors-and-affordable-care-act). There has been much media chatter about the new health insurance marketplace, and more specifically, the national exchange's new online portal - healthcare.gov.

Most of the ACA's provisions directly affecting seniors have been in effect since 2010, however. And other provisions coming into effect now have no bearing on seniors. Seniors do not have to worry about the "issues" with the exchanges directly. They can tune out some of that noise and consider the positive benefits that the law has to offer.

The ACA provides seniors benefits without imposing additional insurance obligations, including enhanced wellness and preventive care and referrals to needed specialists. Both are crucial in Midwest and Great Plains small towns, which have greater percentages of seniors among their residents than urban centers do and historically receive fewer medical screenings and preventive care procedures.

Approximately 19 percent of rural county residents in Great Plains states are 65 or older. Nebraska's rural counties, for example, are home to 41 percent of the state's total population, but contain nearly two-thirds of the state's seniors. In many rural Midwest and Great Plains counties at least one in four residents are over 65. The ACA is vitally important to seniors and the small towns and rural areas where so many seniors live, which is why we believe this report is worth giving a look.

Established in 1973, the Center for Rural Affairs is a private, non-profit organization working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities through action oriented programs addressing social, economic, and environmental issues.