Rural Hospitals in the US Are Closing at an Alarming Rate
More than 600 hospitals are at risk of closing in the near future.
Two hospitals in rural Texas closed their doors last month — and they're far from the only ones to do so recently across the state. The hospitals' closures are part of an alarming trend in Texas and beyond that is threatening the health of rural communities across the US, HuffPost reports.
While Texas has seen the most hospital closures of any state — 75 facilities have shut down since 2010 — hospitals in Oklahoma, Missouri, and California, as well as several other states, have also been affected.
Nearly 100 rural hospitals across the country have closed in the past decade and another 600 are at risk of shutting down in the near future, leaving many without easy access to essential medical services. In Mississippi, which has one of the highest poverty rates in the US, nearly 80% of hospitals are struggling just to remain in operation, HuffPost reports.
The majority of the hospitals at risk of closing down are concentrated in the 14 states that chose not to expand Medicaid — a program that provides health care coverage to low-income adults, children, pregnant women, elderly people, and those with disabilities — following the passing of the Affordable Care Act, a study by Health Affairs found.
Those states have seen a sharp increase in hospital closures, while those that opted to insure more people through Medicaid — reducing the number of uncompensated doctors — have seen a drop in closure rates, according to the study.
In the states where Medicaid was not expanded, rural hospitals have been deprived of the resources they need to stay afloat because they receive fewer patients due to the financial strain posed by a hospital visit, or they go uncompensated for treating patients who cannot afford the care.
Rural communities located many miles from urban centers are suffering the consequences as people are forced to travel for hours to give birth, get treatment, or seek preventative care that could keep them healthy.
As rural communities and hospital CEOs, brace for the next closure, many are calling for their states to expand Medicaid and cover more people with low incomes, which would help them generate revenue and keep hospitals open.
But these challenges are not confined to rural communities in the US. Around the world, rural and remote communities face barriers in accessing quality health care, such as distance, cost, and lack of medical resources.
Approximately 400 million people globally still do not have access to essential health services, according to the World Health Organization. There is much progress to be made to ensure all people receive critical and preventative care, regardless of where they live and how much money they make.