Nearly a Quarter of Rural Hospitals are on the Brink of Closure
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Tuesday, March 05, 2019 05:49 PM

More than a fifth of the nation’s rural hospitals are near insolvency, according to a new report.  Twenty-one percent of rural hospitals are at high risk of closing, according to Navigant's analysis of CMS data on 2,045 rural hospitals. That equates to 430 hospitals across 43 states that employ about 150,000 people and generate about $21.2 billion in total patient revenue a year

Hospitals are often the economic drivers of rural communities. Per capita income falls 4% and the unemployment rate rises 1.6 percentage points when a hospital closes, a related study found. Ninety-seven rural hospitals have closed since 2010, according to the University of North Carolina Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research.

As rural populations decline, inpatient admissions fall, more beds sit vacant, and the number of people covered by government-sponsored plans rises, these communities are left to grapple with the ramifications of losing a hospital.  A loss of acute-care beds and ultimately hospitals is inevitable, experts said.

Navigant set out to define what constitutes an “essential” hospital.  More than a third, or 153, of the 430 financially unstable hospitals are not “essential,” according to Navigant’s data.  While these metrics provide some clarity, there is no objective definition of an “essential" provider.  "Try telling any community, no matter how large or small, that its hospital is not 'essential.' “ Hospitals need to recognize they can’t provide every service under one roof.