Report: 33 percent of rural hospitals could close for lack of funds
Friday, February 12, 2016
According to a new report from iVantage Health Analytics, 673 rural hospitals across 42 states are vulnerable to closure. This is on top of the more than 60 rural hospitals that have closed since 2010, Becker's Hospital Review reports. The iVantage report compiles hospital strength index that is based on data about financial stability, patients and quality indicators.
"Southern states have especially high rates of vulnerability when compared to their total number of rural facilities," Becker's notes. "States in this region with high rates of vulnerability include Mississippi (79 percent), Louisiana (58 percent) and Georgia (53 percent)."
Meanwhile, 63 percent of the hospitals vulnerable to closure are located in states that have not expanded Medicaid, and 68 percent are critical-access hospitals. If all 673 vulnerable hospitals were to shut down, 99,000 healthcare jobs in rural communities would be lost, and it would result in an estimated $277 billion loss to the GDP.
According to Healthcare Dive, the potential closure of 673 rural hospitals represents more than 33 percent of the rural hospitals in the U.S.; 210 being the most vulnerable.
Some of the drivers of these hospital closures include loss of market share, lower patient volumes, declines in quality and outcomes, and decreases in reimbursements.
In a recent announcement that seems to support the news that rural hospitals face a tough road ahead, Southern Palmetto Hospital in Barnwell, South Carolina, announced in a statement last month it is temporarily ending "patient operations" and won't be treating patients. It's the third rural hospital in South Carolina to close since 2011, according to a report by South Carolina Radio Network.
Across the border, in Georgia, four rural hospitals have closed since the beginning of 2013. Another report suggests Washington County, Georgia, is facing the prospect that its hospital could close. Also, last month, the owners of two other struggling rural hospitals in Georgia discussed downsizing efforts that aim to continue some medical services, including emergency rooms, while paring back others.
"Rural hospitals across the United States face some daunting challenges," according to Georgia Health News. "Not only do they serve areas where potential patients are relatively few, but often those patients are likely to be unemployed, insufficiently insured or not insured at all."
The government programs Medicare and Medicaid covering many rural patients have tightened reimbursements to hospitals. And in states that have not expanded Medicaid, hospitals have a heavy burden of patients who can't pay their bills.
The bipartisan Save Rural Hospitals Act (H.R. 3225), introduced in July 2015 by U.S. Representatives Sam Graves (R-Mo.) and Dave Loebsack (D-Iowa), would provide rural hospitals financial and regulatory relief to enable them to stay open. The bill also includes additional funding for rural providers and EMS, grants for population health initiatives, and assistance with changing to value-based payment models.
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