November 18, 2019 | FAH Policy Blog Team
The Federation of American Hospitals is celebrating National Rural Hospital Week November 18th through 22nd to highlight the unique and essential role hospitals play in rural communities across the United States.
Rural America faces countless health care obstacles: fewer providers in less populated areas, technological and transportation accessibility issues and high costs for service. Rural hospitals overcome these challenges every day and are vital to these smaller communities across the country.
More than 60 million Americans live in rural America – that’s one in five Americans relying on rural hospitals for timely and quality care. These 60 million Americans are scattered across 90% of the United States, living in countless communities, each presenting its own unique challenges to the health care system. Rural hospitals are often the sole comprehensive care provider in these communities and face everything from challenging geography, weather and distance to provide care for their patients – each and every day!
Aside from rural hospitals’ unique geographic hardships, they also provide care for a different population than the average urban hospital. On average, the rural communities these hospitals provide for are older and from lower-income backgrounds, relying heavily on Medicare. Though these hospitals provide for a smaller volume of patients, partly because of the high reliance on Medicare, rural hospitals are financially vulnerable and facing continuous operational and funding cuts in Congress.
But these rural hospitals are not only vital for their lifesaving and comprehensive health care services, they are the economic backbone of rural communities. Closures of rural hospitals would not only affect the health care system but would result in massive job loss and unemployment for rural communities. Across the country, rural hospitals are often the largest or second-largest employer in their region, providing an invaluable economic backbone to the community. If these hospitals are forced to close, entire communities could be left without health care providers and employment.
Since the inception of FAH, the Federation has advocated on behalf of rural hospitals to highlight to legislators and policymakers the vital role hospitals play in providing quality care to rural communities across the United States. But there is more work to be done to protect these essential hospitals from future vulnerability. The Medicare Dependent Hospital (MDH) Payment and Low-Volume Hospital (LVH) Adjustment will expire in 2022 and are critical to rural hospitals’ ability to provide quality and affordable care to their patients.
This week and every week, rural hospitals work diligently to combat the unique challenges facing rural communities. They play a vital role in the economic prosperity of disadvantaged populations and provide invaluable care to smaller communities across the country.