Closing of Rural Hospitals across U.S. Upends Communities

Saturday, October 10, 2015
(graphic: Steve Straehley, AllGov)

The United States has lost nearly 60 rural hospitals over the past five years, leaving communities across the country looking for health care services and enduring the fallout from the closures.


University of North Carolina’s Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research has found that 57 rural hospitals have closed since 2010. The total will reach 58 this weekend when the town of Independence, Kansas, will lose its hospital, according to The New York Times.


Hospital closures have an outsized effect on rural communities. “The rural population tends to be older, sicker and poorer than their urban counterparts and are much more reliant on Medicaid and Medicare. So cuts to those programs, along with regulatory burdens on rural hospitals, are hitting these hospitals hard,” Diane Calmus, government affairs and policy manager at the National Rural Health Association (NRHA) told Healthcare Dive.


Declining reimbursements, more regulation and a shrinking rural patient base could cause more hospitals to close, according to the Times’ Mitch Smith and Abby Goodnough.


Other rural hospitals from Maine to California have also closed. They not only were mainstays of their communities, but also provided jobs and economic stability. Local leaders are trying to figure out how to replace them and mitigate the effects of their closing.


One rural hospital lobbyist says there are no simple answers for stopping this trend. “If it were just one silver bullet, it would have been easier to attack it legislatively and figure it out,” Maggie Elehwany, NRHA’s chief lobbyist, told the Times. “But it’s really death by a thousand different knives.”


Independence City Manager Micky Webb told the newspaper that companies considering a move to that city often ask if there’s a hospital to care for the local workforce. He’s not sure what’s going to happen now that he has to tell them no.

-Noel Brinkerhoff, Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

Closing a Hospital, and Fearing for the Future (by Mitch Smith and Abby Goodnough, New York Times)

Surviving the Rural Hospital Closing Challenge (by Nina Flanagan, Healthcare Dive)

To Survive, Rural Hospitals Join Forces (by Michael Ollove, Pew Charitable Trusts)

57 Rural Hospital Closures: January 2010 – Present (Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research)


G3K762 8 years ago
I am a manager in a radiology department in a major NYC hospital. I've been in healthcare for over 30 years, beginning as an EMT at 18, to Corpsman at 19 to my present position 30 years later. Oh the changes I have seen. Private imaging centers are being bought up by the major hospital chains or driven out of business altogether. Smaller community hospitals have also been gobbled up or been forced to close their doors. A few major hospital networks now control most of healthcare on Long Island and the NYC metropolitan area. It hasn't resulted in lower prices, though. Hospitals are now large enough to negotiate big reimbursement contracts from the insurance companies, forcing them to charge higher premiums in return. My hospital charges 10-15 times what my previous outpatient employer used to get reimbursed for an MRI. They charge that, but don't receive it. What they get is FAR greater than what smaller groups used to receive. If you are unfortunate enough to be without insurance, we will be so magnanimous as to offer to let you pay just under half of what we CHARGE. You will still pay 7-10x what we used to accept from our lowest paying contracted insurance provider. It's criminal.............
rita G 8 years ago
incredible. deliberate. and of course THEY are well aware of the consequences and obviously this is the plan in limiting and the rationing of America's and AMERICANS' health CARE--not insurance, CARE. Now i hope you can understand that in a city of approx 8million, nyc to be exact THEY succeeded already in closing down the doors of every single Catholic hospital and these hospitals outpatient services and buildings. THEY'RE GONE and of course the "beds" and services the same. we saw the writing on the wall way back WHEN,in the early 70s when albany and the feds were selective of what hospitals were getting the reimbursements from medicaid and medicare. the closures began. a few noncatholic hospitals went the same way-bankruptcy, literal bankruptcy and not the restructuring kind. so thousnds of beds disappeared and the clinics went and some clinics were dedicated to HIV/AIDS long before it was "the thing to do" and these clinics and units for end stage AIDS were exclusive to the CATHOLIC hospitals as well. The closure of St Vincents over in the west village then left that area WITHOUT a local level 1 trauma/cardiac- so where do they go now ? the other receiving hospital is either uptown Roosevelt or whatever is downtown BUT downtown is not on the levels of the former St Vinnies or Roosevelt uptown. the situation is the same regarding LACK OF BEDS AND SERVICES and the only saving grace remains plenty of public transportation to get to the clinics or to visit someone but the LACK OF BEDS creates the same problems. this IS their master plan-limit the CARE. these hospitals were in existence long before the welfare states and medicaid and somehow stayed open. then with the STATE taking over their financing, the STATE also declared these hospitals of poor management and practices leading to bankruptcy. the state did not send the basic reimbursements which led to this. ain't it GREAT ? everyone's INSURED ! and now there isn't enough practioners or BEDS to care for all these INSURED. what a DISGRACE this nation has become.
William 8 years ago
Agenda 21 ..... Drive the people into the cities

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