Payers Could Help Keep Threatened Rural Hospitals Afloat

More than 30% of rural hospitals nationwide could close soon, according to a new report from the Center for Healthcare Quality & Payment Reform (CHQPR). Health care experts tell AIS Health, a division of MMIT, that closures could have dire effects on rural communities, but health insurers may be able to spearhead changes in care delivery and payment models to help keep rural health care viable.

According to the CHQPR report, 631 rural hospitals are at risk of closure in the “near future,” with over 200 of those at “immediate risk” of closing. In “almost half” of states, 25% of rural hospitals are at risk of closure, and in 10 states, 40% or more are at risk. Hawaii (75%), Connecticut (67%) and Alabama (60%) have the highest proportion of hospitals at risk of closure. Texas (50%) is the most populous state to have at least half of its rural hospitals at risk. This precarious state of affairs follows 112 rural hospital closures between 2010 and July 2019, per HHS. Rural obstetric care is in particularly poor shape. Researchers from the University of Minnesota found that 165 rural obstetric units closed between 2004 and 2014, “leaving over half of rural counties without obstetric services,” as HHS put it.

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Peter Johnson

Peter Johnson

Peter has worked as a journalist since 2011 and has covered health care since 2020. At AIS Health, Peter covers trends in finance, business and policy that affect the health insurance and pharma sectors. For Health Plan Weekly, he covers all aspects of the U.S. health insurance sector, including employer-sponsored insurance, Medicaid managed care, Medicare Advantage and the Affordable Care Act individual marketplaces. In Radar on Drug Benefits, Peter covers the operations of (and conflicts between) pharmacy benefit managers and pharmaceutical manufacturers, with a particular focus on pricing dynamics and market access. Before joining AIS Health, Peter covered transportation, public safety and local government for various outlets in Seattle, his hometown and current place of residence. He graduated with a B.A. from Colby College.

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