Already, Lee notes, three payments for rural hospitals have been allowed to expire: the Medicare Dependent Hospital program, the Low-Volume Hospital Adjustment and the Section 508 or hospital wage index programs. Together, he writes, these programs "provide millions of dollars in reimbursements to rural hospitals treating specific Medicare populations. Unless these payments are restored, many hospitals will likely have to reduce services and staff to stay afloat."
|Red dots show Area Health Education Centers; gray stars|
show administrators of AHEC programs. (AHEC graphic)
Lee looks at the composition of the newly elected Congress and the many champions of rural health who are soon leaving it. "Key rural health problems that now hang in the balance include increased dependence on reimbursements from Medicare, Medicaid, and self-payers; longer distances patients must travel for primary and specialty care; fewer providers per capita, which may lead to long waits for visits in the rural health care delivery system; lack of funding in rural health education; and the need for continued rural health research," Lee writes. "The next two years, indeed the future of rural health care, depends on active engagement now." (Read more)