As the healthcare market continues to change, the challenges are magnified for rural hospitals that have a smaller base population, American Hospital Association President and CEO Rich Umbdenstock told Hospitals & Health Networks Daily.
In addition to a limited base population, the characteristics of that population--which tends to be older, underinsured and more chronically ill--make rural hospitals more vulnerable.
For most healthcare organizations, and rurals in particular, making the move toward value-based care will mean more partnership and integration, Umbdenstock noted.
Rural community hospitals also face potential threats to a scaled back critical access hospital (CAH) program. But the good news, according to Umbdenstock, is CAH reimbursement represents only small dollars in the grand scheme.
He pointed to strong Congressional support for rural hospitals, especially given there are more Senators from rural states.
For example, Sens. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) on Thursday introduced a resolution calling access to rural hospitals and providers "essential to the survival and success of communities," AHA News Now reported.
"Rural healthcare providers are critical to the local economies of their communities and are one of the largest types of employers in rural areas of the United States," the resolution states.
The legislators also note that improving healthcare access in rural areas is not only key to U.S. prosperity, but also will lead to Medicare cost savings and improved outcomes.