Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Rural hospitals say their number is likely to decline in Georgia; three have closed this year

Georgia keeps losing rural hospitals. It has lost three this year because of financial difficulties, with Stewart-Webster Hospital in Richland, Ga., and Calhoun Memorial Hospital in Arlington closing in the early part of the year, and Charlton Memorial Hospital in southeast Georgia shutting down in August. But the worst could be to come. "As many as 15 more may be closing their doors in the coming months," according to Hometown Health, "a trade association representing 56 rural hospitals in Georgia," Ellen Reinhardt reports for Georgia Public Broadcasting. (First Coast News photo: Charlton Memorial closed in August)

Because Republican Gov. Nathan Deal and the GOP-controlled legislature did not expand the Medicaid program under the federal health-reform law, Georgia hospitals will not get "about $400 million in federal subsidies to pay for care for indigent patients over the next four years," Reinhardt writes. In 2017, the state would have to pay 3 percent of the expansion cost, topping out at 10 percent in 2020.

A Deal spokesman told Reinhardt, “If we expand Medicaid, we’re on the hook for that 10 percent and most people believe, if they really look at it, that that 10 percent isn’t going to stay 10 percent forever; that as the federal government looks for ways to pay off its $17 trillion debt, it’s going to start cutting corners on the biggest expenses and Medicaid is going to be one of the biggest expenses So, it’s going to be a prime target for future budget cutters on the federal level.” (Read more)

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