Monday, December 14, 2020

States ranked by percentage of threatened rural hospitals just before pandemic; they're likely worse off now

Parkway Regional Hospital in Fulton, Ky., closed in 2015;
in 2019, the Tennessee company that owned it said it was
getting out of the rural-hospital business. (Read more)
The coronavirus pandemic has worsened the fortunes of many rural hospitals, but many were already stretched thin. Stacker, a data analytics news site, used data from a 2019 Navigant study to rank states with the highest percentage of threatened rural hospitals. The study analyzed the financial viability of about 2,000 rural hospitals, based on their operating margins, cash on hand, and debt-to-capitalization ratios. Stacker's rankings include extra observations and data about each state.

The Stacker story also provides a cogent summary of rural health and health-care disparities, facts about rural hospitals, and how rural hospital closures: "In Navigant’s analysis, 21 percent, or 430 hospitals across 43 states, are at high risk for closure without changes to improve their finances. If these hospitals were to close their doors, they would take away 21,547 staffed beds, 707,000 annual discharges, 150,000 jobs, and $21.2 billion in total patient revenue," Dani Leviss reports.

States that rank high on Stacker's list aren't necessarily the states with the biggest rural-health problems; Connecticut, the state with the highest percentage of rural hospitals at risk of closing, is only in the top spot because it has so few rural hospitals (five) and three of them are at risk. Comparatively, Alabama, the state with the second-highest rate, has 21 of 42 rural hospitals at risk of closing. Alabama's rural residents are overall sicker and older than Connecticut's rural residents, and must generally travel further to access medical care. However, Southern states and those with large rural populations comprise most of the top 10: 

1. Connecticut (3 of 5, or 60%, of rural hospitals in danger of closing)
2. Alabama (21 of 42, or 50%)
3. Mississippi (31 of 64, or 48.4%)
4. Georgia (26 of 63, or 41.3%)
5. (tie) Alaska (6 of 15, or 40%)
5. (tie) Maine (8 of 20, or 40%)
7. West Virginia (10 of 27, or 37%)
8. Arkansas (18 of 49, or 36.7%)
9. Florida (8 of 23, or 34.8%)
10. New Hampshire (5 of 17, or 29.4%)

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