Monday, July 03, 2017

Some rural hospitals hang by a Medicaid thread

Lincoln Community Hospital (NPR photo)
Lincoln Community Hospital in Hugo, Colo., is exemplary of rural hospitals across the country. Residents are proud of their hospital, but changes to the Medicaid program could reduce its funding and force it to cut back services, reports John Daley of NPR.

"From the outside, Lincoln Community Hospital looks more like a small 1960s-era apartment building," Daley reports. "But it has all the essential high-tech health care equipment: modern imaging machines, tele-medicine links — even an AirLife helicopter. Rachel Smith, the assistant director of nursing, says the thing that really sets the hospital apart is the quality of its care."

Smith said, "It's definitely not treat 'em and street 'em. It's definitely somebody you're going to see — maybe even later that day, later that week."

Half of the hospital's patients are covered by Medicare, according to Daley. "One chronic problem for the hospital is that its reimbursement from Medicare doesn't cover the full cost of the services it provides. The hospital also receives — and depends on — Medicaid payments, and that program is facing deep cuts under the Senate health bill now under consideration," Daley writes.

Making the financial puzzle pieces fit is tricky for rural hospitals. "As Congress works to change the health system once more, many small town facilities like Lincoln Community Hospital are on thin ice," Daley says.

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