American rural hospitals are in trouble, and a new study reveals why. The answer? “It’s complicated.”

The Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured focused on three recently closed rural hospitals in South Carolina, Kentucky and Kansas. They came up with “a broad range” of reasons for closure, including (but not at all limited to):

  • Corporate decisions on profitability
  • Lack of community expertise in dealing with large health-care organizations
  • Changes in federal reimbursement policies
  • Some states’ decisions not to expand Medicaid

Rural hospital closures are part of a broader pattern of poor healthcare in rural areas. Many rural counties have only one hospital, and its closure can have lasting impacts. Ambulances, for instance, may have to travel all the way to the next county over in an emergency. If you’re having a heart attack, that could be the difference between life and death.

North Carolina has been impacted by such closures — there have been 4 since 2010, including a closure in Franklin County as recently as 2015. (As we reported, there might be a ray of light in that situation, though it’s small.)

It may not seem like it at first, but this issue also has everything to do with healthcare costs. Rural hospitals are finding it difficult to provide the level of care their patients need, because costs are skyrocketing, and they have more limited funds that larger urban hospitals. So for the sake of our rural residents, please...let’s try hard to reduce healthcare costs.

Read more about the hospital closure study here.

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