|Patrick County, Va. (Wikipedia map)|
Not only did local residents lose their most important source of medical care, about 100 people lost their jobs. Reasons for hospital closures vary for every community, according to Mark Holmes, director of the North Carolina Rural Health Research and Policy Analysis Center, part of the program that tracks rural hospital closures. "One factor can include social demographics: Rural populations are often older, sicker and poorer than urban populations, he said. Other factors include decreased demand for inpatient services, consolidation in the health-care space, and a state's decision of whether to expand Medicaid," Lovelace and Schoen report.
Beth O'Connor of the Virginia Rural Health Association said rural hospitals may play a key role in getting Virginia Republicans to allow Medicaid expansion, since two-thirds of the hospitals that have closed in the past eight years were in states that did not expand Medicaid, Michael Pope reports for NPR affiliate WTVF at Virginia Tech. Medicaid is a key financial resource for rural hospitals nationwide, reducing the amount of uncompensated care hospitals must provide and insulating them from worse financial problems. O'Connor told WTVF that expanding Medicaid would help more rural hospitals stay open.
A special Senate session on Medicaid expansion is scheduled for later this month. Quentin Kidd, a political science professor at Christopher Newport University, told WTVF that he thinks more rural Republican lawmakers will soon support expansion because "they all know that at the end of the day the dollars and cents are going to be meaningful to their rural hospitals and they need those rural hospitals to stay open."