Rural hospitals are vital care providers and economic engines
The nearly 1 in 5 Americans who live in rural areas rely on local hospitals as critical sources of care. But too many rural hospitals struggle to remain open. A report from the Center for Healthcare Quality found 40 rural Iowa hospitals at risk of closure before the pandemic. Recent forecasts project total 2021 hospital revenue could drop $122 billion from pre-pandemic levels.
We must ensure rural hospitals have needed resources and payment flexibility to avoid cash flow challenges. A promising payment tool is the rural community hospital demonstration model championed by Sen. Chuck Grassley. The model targets facilities lacking economies of scale because of their size but may be too large to qualify for programs to help the smallest hospitals.
The model’s reimbursement is based on service costs in rural hospitals with fewer than 51 beds and provide 24-hour emergency care. Without this model, many rural hospitals would be in jeopardy.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services found the financial benefits of the model saved many facilities from altering or downsizing their operations, improved financial security, continued to support local economies and provided high-quality care.
Despite unprecedented challenges, rural hospitals remain committed to ensuring local access to high-quality, affordable care. Thanks to the rural community hospital program, rural community hospitals will continue serving as community anchors and lifelines of care. -- Jason Harrington, president and CEO, Lakes Regional Healthcare, Spirit Lake; chair, Iowa Hospital Association’s board of officers and trustees.