he Federation of American Hospitals is celebrating National Rural Hospital Week November 14 through 18 to highlight the unique and essential role hospitals play in small communities across the United States. This year, FAH is focusing on the numerous – and very personal – ways these facilities protect and provide access to care in rural areas from coast to coast. Whether providing cutting edge treatment to COVID patients or using coordinated care to save someone suffering from a heart attack, rural hospitals are vital to the health of their communities – both physically and economically. (Read more here)
Each and every day, rural America faces countless health care obstacles: from fewer providers in less populated areas to technological and transportation accessibility issues. The lengthy pandemic has exacerbated these challenges by continuing to increase patient pressures on caregivers in these small communities.
More than 60 million people live in rural America – each one relying on rural hospitals for timely and quality care. These facilities are often the sole comprehensive health provider in these communities and daily face everything from challenging geography, weather and distance to care for their patients.
Aside from rural hospitals’ unique geographic hardships, populations in these areas are generally older and from lower-income backgrounds, relying heavily on Medicare and Medicaid. These hospitals also have a smaller volume of patients. And partly because of the high reliance on federal health programs with lower reimbursement levels, these facilities are financially vulnerable.
These rural hospitals are not only important for their lifesaving and comprehensive health care services, but they are also the economic backbone of the communities they serve. Across the country, rural hospitals are often the largest or second-largest employer in their region, providing an invaluable fiscal boost to smaller cities and towns. If these hospitals are forced to close, entire communities could be left without health care providers and employment.
Since its inception, the Federation has advocated on behalf of rural hospitals, highlighting to legislators and policymakers the crucial role these facilities 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.
During the lame duck session of Congress, we are urging lawmakers to reauthorize two key rural hospital payment policies -the Low-Volume Hospital (LVH) & Medicare-dependent Hospital (MDH) Programs. Both are vital to protecting access to care. Lawmakers need to also waive Statutory Pay-As-You-Go or PAYGO – failing to do so would have a crushing effect on the entire health care system, with rural facilities feeling the brunt of the impact. (Read more here)
This week and every week, rural hospitals work diligently to combat the unique challenges facing their communities. These facilities are integral to the economic prosperity of rural populations and provide invaluable care to smaller communities across the country.