Rural hospitals hard hit by Medicare cuts

Rural hospitals in Colorado may be forced to stop treating Medicare patients in the face of a 22 percent reimbursement cut, reports the Colorado Public News. Such cuts would cost rural hospitals $6 million in funding in the first year and $64.9 million over the next ten years, according to the Colorado Hospital Association (CHA), notes the article.

Slashing Medicare payments also may drive those facilities to eliminate services or close altogether--consequently eliminating jobs in small towns across the state where hospitals serve as a major source of employment. Hospitals contributed $18.8 billion in economic activity and about 133,100 jobs to Colorado in 2010, according to a November study commissioned by the CHA.

But hospitals can't adjust their budgets to make sure they'll be able to deliver services efficiently and continue to meet patients' needs until they know how much funding will be cut, Montrose Memorial Hospital CFO Stephan Wilson told the CPN. "We have no way to figure out what's going on or to plan," he said. The potential Medicare payment cuts could cost his hospital up to $2.5 million--a hefty budget gap to fill.

Hospitals in Florida and New Hampshire are facing similar cuts, taking the federal and state governments to court in an attempt to block the multimillion dollar state Medicaid reductions.

For more information:
- read the CPN piece
- here's the CHA study (.pdf)