This year, the Federation of American Hospitals is celebrating National Rural Hospital Week November 15th through 19th to put a spotlight on and discuss the unique and essential role hospitals play in rural communities across the United States as the battle against COVID-19 continues. We are also highlighting ways lawmakers can take action to make sure patients in these areas of the country maintain access to the lifesaving care they need and deserve.
Rural America was facing countless health care obstacles – even before the pandemic began. From fewer providers in less populated areas to technological and transportation accessibility issues, COVID-19 has put even more pressure on these communities and the hospitals that serve them.
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 facilities are often the sole comprehensive care provider in these communities and daily face everything from challenging geography, weather, and distance to provide care for their patients.
Aside from rural hospitals’ unique geographic hardships, rural populations are generally older and from lower-income backgrounds, relying heavily on Medicare and Medicaid. These hospitals 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 vital 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.
The good news – there are ways policymakers can support access to quality health care for all those who reside in rural communities.
This year, FAH is looking at five policy areas that lawmakers can champion to protect health care in rural America:
- Preventing Medicare and Medicaid payments cuts to rural hospitals.
- Strengthening our health care workforce.
- Advancing rural health equity.
- Expanding access to telehealth.
- Making permanent certain payment programs that serve as lifelines to rural hospitals and their patients.
You can read more about each by clicking here.
Since its inception, the Federation has advocated on behalf of rural hospitals, highlighting to legislators and policymakers the vital 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 and looming cuts.
This week and every week, rural hospitals work diligently to combat the unique challenges facing their communities, especially as our nation continues to grapple with an unprecedented pandemic. These facilities are integral to the economic prosperity of rural populations and provide invaluable care to smaller communities across the country.
Aside from rural hospitals’ unique geographic hardships, rural populations are generally older and from lower-income backgrounds, relying heavily on Medicare and Medicaid. These hospitals 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.