Rural healthcare crisis: 13% of rural hospitals could close

The rural healthcare crisis may be worse than previously thought, with nearly 13 percent of rural hospitals nationwide vulnerable to closure, according to a new report.

Researchers from iVantage Health Analytics analyzed 2,224 rural hospitals nationwide, rating them on strength based on more than 60 different measurements. They identified 283 at risk of closure, potentially restricting care access for 700,000 Medicare patients, reducing gross domestic product by $10.6 billion and costing rural communities 86,000 jobs.

Numerous factors contribute to this vulnerability level, according to the report, including myriad states' failure 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 percent of their rural hospitals at risk of closing their doors, but the number is nearly twice that in nonexpansion states. Both of 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 1 in 3 vulnerable to closure, followed by Louisiana, with 28.1 percent, and Texas, with 27.5 percent. Meanwhile, several states had no at-risk hospitals, including Utah, Wyoming and Alaska.

Other reports provide a bleak outlook for the nation's rural providers. FierceHealthcare previously reported that two facilities in Nevada and Arizona would close down in August and numerous hospitals now shift their focus to outpatient treatment and drop services such as routine baby deliveries to cut expenses.

To learn more:
- read the report (.pdf)