Friday, March 14, 2014

Georgia mulls plan that would let struggling or closed rural hospitals shrink in order to survive

Georgia may try to stave off its rural hospital crisis by allowing "a rural hospital that has recently closed — or one that’s currently struggling to survive — to downsize to a facility that includes an emergency room, surgery and childbirth services," Andy Miller reports for Georgia Health News.

Community Health Commissioner Clyde Reese told GHN that he would ask the agency's board to issue rules for such "step-down" facilities, and Gov. Nathan Deal "would make an announcement on rural health care next week," Miller writes.

Georgia has seen four rural hospitals close in the last two years, even as the Republican-controlled state government refused hospitals' pleas to expand Medicaid under federal health reform, which is gradually reducing the bonuses that critical-access hospitals, most of them rural, get for treating a high number of Medicaid and Medicare patients.

South Carolina had taken the same tack, but "recently raised the Medicaid reimbursements that it pays struggling rural hospitals," Miller reports. "Gov. Nikki Haley’s administration called it a way to improve the health of the Palmetto State’s most vulnerable residents." (Read more)

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