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Rural Health Care Crisis Worse than Thought

13% of rural hospitals may close

A report from iVantage Health Analytics has found 283 rural hospitals at risk of closure, which could restrict care access for 700,000 Medicare beneficiaries, reduce gross domestic product by $10.6 billion, and cost rural communities 86,000 jobs. The researchers analyzed 2,224 hospitals and rated them on strength based on more than 60 different measurements.

According to Fierce Healthcare, numerous factors contribute to this vulnerability level, according to the report, including myriad states' failures to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act and reimbursement cuts as a result of sequestration. Medicaid expansion states are by no means immune to the crisis, with 8.5% of their rural hospitals at risk of closing their doors, but the proportion is nearly twice as high in nonexpansion states.

These factors will have a disproportionate effect on rural providers in Southern and Midwestern states, according to the research. For example, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Minnesota could each lose more than 300 jobs, while Mississippi, North Carolina, Georgia, and Missouri each stand to lose nearly 200.

The report also analyzed rural hospital vulnerability on a state-by-state basis and found Mississippi had the highest percentage of at-risk hospitals, with more than one in three vulnerable to closure, followed by Louisiana, with 28.1%, and Texas, with 27.5%. Meanwhile, several states had no at-risk hospitals, including Utah, Wyoming, and Alaska.

Source: Fierce Healthcare, October 22, 2015.

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