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National Rural Health Day

Rural Hospitals Are Closing. Rural Patients Are Vulnerable. Legislation is the Solution

Posted on Thu, Nov 19, 2015
Rural Hospitals Are Closing. Rural Patients Are Vulnerable. Legislation is the Solution

In honor of National Rural Health Day, the National Rural Health Association penned a post for EmCare's blog.
 
Fifty-seven rural hospitals have closed; 283 more are on the brink of closure. Since the start of 2013, more rural hospitals have closed than in the previous 10 years combined. Continued cuts in hospital payments have taken their toll, forcing far too many closures. Medical deserts are appearing across rural America, leaving many of our nation’s most vulnerable populations without timely access to care.
 
That’s why the National Rural Health Association (NRHA) is advancing H.R. 3225, the Save Rural Hospitals Act, introduced by U.S Reps. Sam Graves (R-Mo.) and Dave Loebsack (D-Iowa).
 
The bipartisan bill will stabilize and strengthen rural hospitals by:
 

  • Reversing the Medicare cuts that all rural hospitals have struggled with for years,
  • Providing rural hospitals with new funding so they can provide quality primary care to rural patients across the nation, and
  • Creating a path forward for struggling rural hospitals by allowing them to provide the care their communities need and receive fair reimbursement for providing essential emergency room and primary care.
 
It is clear that continued cuts in hospital payments have taken their toll leaving 69 percent of rural hospitals with negative operating profit margins. If Congress doesn’t act to stop the multitude of cuts the closure of the 283 hospitals on the brink will result in 700,000 patients losing local access to care. When the hospital closes the community dies, since the local hospital can represent as much as 20 percent of the local rural economy. If only the hospitals on the brink closes, 36,000 direct healthcare jobs and another 50,000 community jobs will vanish. But more importantly, when these hospitals close, most physicians, nurses, physician assistants and other health care providers linked to the hospital leave the community and result in medical deserts forming across the nation.
 
Rural Americans are more likely to be older, sicker and poorer then their urban counterparts. Specifically, they are more likely to suffer with a chronic disease that requires monitoring and follow up care, making convenient, local access to care necessary to ensuring patient compliance with the services that are necessary to reduce the overall cost of care and improve the patients’ outcomes and quality of life. Rural patients already face a number of challenges when trying to access health care services close to home. Yet, since care in rural America is high quality primary care, instead of costly specialty care, when rural Americans can receive care locally CMS actually spends 2.5% less on rural beneficiaries it does on urban beneficiaries. This saves taxpayers billions of dollars each year.
 
Access to quality, affordable health care is essential for the 62 million Americans living in rural and remote communities. When a hospital closes, neighbors, family and friends must seek care outside the community, traveling to receive care in a far-away urban area. Rural hospitals are a vital access point to get timely and quality care. If rural hospitals close, patients suffer, and so does the rural economy.
 
How can you help?
 
Join NRHA in telling Congressional leadership you support this important legislation to save rural hospitals.
 
  • Call, email, tweet and Facebook your elected officials and colleagues using #SaveRural.
  • Attend town halls. Ask questions and share your stories about rural hospitals.
  • Invite your members of Congress and health legislative assistants to tour your facility.

The National Rural Health Association (NRHA) is a national nonprofit membership organization with more than 20,000 members. The association’s mission is to provide leadership on rural health issues.  NRHA membership consists of a diverse collection of individuals and organizations, all of whom share the common bond of an interest in rural health.

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