America’s Rural Hospital Crisis – #SaveRural #RuralHealth
How is the health of your closest hospital? If you live in a rural area, it might be in trouble.
Worse yet, if you’re a physical or occupational therapist or a speech language pathologist who lives and work in a rural area, you might be worrying about losing your PT, OT, or SLP job. Not to mention worrying about the cumulative economic impact on your community if one of the largest employers in town shuts down.
The Rural Health Care Crisis in America
The North Carolina Rural Health Institute (NCRHI) reports that since 2010, 78 rural hospitals have either ceased altogether, or “converted” to no longer be inpatient facilities. According to the NCRHI’s Sheps’ Center for Health Center Research 683 more hospitals are on the brink of closure, risking access to much-needed health care, including physical and occupational therapy and speech language pathology services, for more than 11.7 million Americans. The NCRHI created a map to keep tabs on the health of at risk hospitals. Click here to find out if there are hospitals in your area that are at risk.
The National Rural Hospital Association has been working for years to document and raise awareness of this crisis. A hospital’s chance of closing has increased six-fold since 2010 when the Affordable Care Act (ACA) went into effect and hospitals began struggling to recover from the recession. Since then, all hospitals have faced reduced Medicare coverage and reduced bad debt payments causing financial strain.
However, rural hospitals, which are heavily dependent on Medicare coverage to compensate for the large low-income population they serve, have felt this strain more than others. So, rural hospitals are closing at a much faster rate than urban hospitals. And those who use rural hospitals are, “per capita, older, poorer and sicker,” says Alan Morgan, NRHA CEO. The general poor health of the rural areas, is only worsened when healthcare facilities are shut down. Many rural communities are becoming healthcare deserts, where medical care, including rehabilitation services, are not available for miles around, jeopardizing the health of entire regions.
The American Health Care Act (AHCA) and Rural Healthcare
As a healthcare professional involved in Physical or Occupational Therapy or Speech Language Pathology, your fellow therapists who live and work in rural settings need your support. Unbelievably, the proposed changes to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) included in the American Health Care Act (AHCA) may only make things worse for rural healthcare facilities. The National Rural Hospital Association makes this clear in this message which is publicized on NPR. They encourage you to contact your representatives and ask them to vote “no” on the AHCA and instead, support #SaveRural Hospitals Act. For more ways that you can make a difference in this crisis, please click here.