Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Wisconsin newspaper launches series of stories on rural health care, starting with hospitals

Wisconsin State Journal reporter David Wahlberg is taking a year-long look at rural health care. Installments on related issues will follow in the coming months. Joining Wahlberg on the project is State Journal photographer Craig Schreiner. The project is partly supported by the nonprofit, nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation, which awarded a fellowship to Wahlberg. (Read more)

The first report includes how rural hospitals, often "critical access hospitals" that get extra Medicare money in return for limiting admissions and stays, are dealing with hard economic times. Wahlberg reports, "A 10 percent cut to rural hospitals this year in Medicaid, the state-federal health plan for the poor, brings an additional challenge. Hospital administrators are pushing for a tax that would bring in extra federal money to offset the state cut." Medicare accounts for about half of the budgets at most rural hospitals. But nursing homes, home-health care and mental health services don't qualify for the higher payments, so are often cut when budgets get tight. (Read more)

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