Rural hospitals feel fiscal squeeze

Rural hospitals, particularly facilities in the South, are seeing their finances come under greater pressure as a result of factors ranging from healthcare insurance to their states' refusal to participate in the Medicaid expansion as part of the Affordable Care Act.

For instance, 25-bed Calhoun Memorial Hospital in Georgia recently shut down due to an increase in charity care, according to Kaiser Health News. "You just can't continue to give away free care," said the hospital's last CEO, Earl Whiteley.

Another rural Georgia facility, Habersham Medical Center, has just enough cash flow to make payroll and service debt, but nothing else, acting CEO Jack Fulbright told Kaiser Health News. Fulbright said his facility has been hit hard by a rising number of uninsured patients and those who have coverage but with high deductibles.

Last week in Tennessee, Gov. Bill Haslam said the state would not participate in Medicaid expansion as part of the ACA. The decision to opt out would put dozens of rural hospitals at risk for closing and could leave as many as 21 counties in the Volunteer State without a hospital, Craig Fitzhugh, the House Minority Leader, told The Chattanoogan.

Meanwhile, a proposed bill could offer hope for small, rural hospitals in Minnesota, as it would allow critical access facilities to receive reimbursement for certain diagnostic services without spending money for full accreditation, reported the Echo Press.

For more:
- read the Kaiser Health News article
- read the Chattanoogan article
- here's the Echo Press article