Wednesday, February 13, 2013

'Sequester' cuts will hit rural health care harder, perhaps closing hospitals, study forecasts

Rural health care providers could especially feel the sting of "the sequester," or automatic federal spending cuts due to hit March 1. According to a study by iVantage Health Analytics, impending cuts could mean closure of rural hospitals and loss of rural health care jobs.

The sequestration is expected to involve a 2 percent reduction in Medicare reimbursement that iVantage predicts will make 63 rural hospitals unprofitable and mean the loss of 482 rural health care jobs nationally, George Lauer reported for California Healthline.

"This is going to have an impact everywhere -- urban, suburban, rural -- but I think it's fair to say rural will feel it more, especially small, remote, providers," Gregory Wolf, iVantage vice president, said.  Lauer pointed out for his California readers that the state would not be as "hard-hit" as the Midwest and South.

iVantage presented its research at the yearly Rural Health Policy Institute of the National Rural Health Association this month. Its summary read, "Rural hospitals face major financial challenges given their relatively small operating scale and workforce shortages. Under a proposed 2% Medicare reimbursement reduction resulting from sequestration, these challenges will be exacerbated."

"I do think there is a generally receptive attitude to the things we're saying, but I'm not so sure how that might translate into anything tangible," Kelley Gentry, CEO of the Surprise Valley Health Care District in California, told Lauer. (Read more)

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