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.