Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Rural hospitals in Ala., Okla. struggle to remain open; Neb. also feels lack of expanded Medicaid

Rural hospitals in Alabama and Oklahoma are in critical condition. In Alabama eight rural hospitals have closed "over the last 15 years and more closures are possible as rural hospitals struggle to stay open," reports Mackenzie Bates for Alabama Public Radio. In Oklahoma about 56 percent "of rural hospitals operated at a financial loss between 2009 and 2013," Randy Ellis reports for The Oklahoman.

Voters in Randolph County, Alabama, will go to the polls today "on a proposed one-cent sales tax" to try to keep open Wedowee Hospital, which has 34 beds and a 24-hour emergency room, Bates writes. "The money will be used to support a bond issue to build a new facility that administrators hope will attract more patients." (Best Places map: Wedowee, Ala.)

Seven rural Oklahoma hospitals have been involved in bankruptcy since 2011, Ellis writes. Hospital consultant Val Schott told Ellis, "I would say probably 70 [percent to] 75 percent of the hospitals in rural Oklahoma are having some kind of financial struggle."

"Schott estimated a dozen or so are in serious trouble, with less than 10 days cash on hand to pay operational expenses," Ellis writes. Nationwide, more than 50 hospitals have closed since 2010 and "another 250 or so are teetering on the brink of bankruptcy or failure," Schott said. (Read more)

In Nebraska, rural hospitals "are seeing the effects of the state opting not to take the Medicaid expansion" offered under federal health reform, Irene North reports for the Scottsbluff Star Herald. "Without expansion, rural hospitals have reduced their charitable care and increased their bad debt from patients who have been unable to pay their bills.

“The unfortunate thing is when they put that whole thing together, they anticipated expansion would be taken by everyone,” Dan Griess, CEO of Box Butte General Hospital, told North, whose story is a comprehensive explainer.

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