Ru­ral hos­pi­tals are clos­ing their doors

Modern Healthcare - - NEWS -

“This is an ad­min­is­tra­tion and a Leg­is­la­ture that doesn’t be­lieve in govern­ment ad­min­is­tra­tion of ser­vices.” SHEL­DON WEISGRAU

KANSAS’MED­I­CAID PRO­GRAM IS DE­SCRIBED BY ONE AD­VO­CATE AS “COM­ING APART AT THE SEAMS.” It has such a long back­log for ap­proval that some preg­nant women have al­ready given birth be­fore they are ap­proved for ben­e­fits. This means they are not re­ceiv­ing pre­na­tal ser­vices, and the hospi­tal where they de­liver is writ­ing it off as char­ity care.

With ben­e­fi­ciary ap­proval tak­ing four to six months and providers not get­ting paid in any­thing close to a timely man­ner, hos­pi­tals are cut­ting staff and ser­vices, said Shel­don Weisgrau, di­rec­tor of the Health Re­form Re­source Project, which helps the state se­cure grants un­der the Af­ford­able Care Act.

“This is an ad­min­is­tra­tion and a Leg­is­la­ture that doesn’t be­lieve in govern­ment ad­min­is­tra­tion of ser­vices,” he said.

Repub­li­can Gov. Sam Brown­back in­sti­tuted mas­sive in­come tax cuts in 2012. The de­cline in rev­enue forced law­mak­ers to blow through the state’s re­serves and shift money away from health­care, ed­u­ca­tion and in­fras­truc­ture.

In March, the GOP-led Leg­is­la­ture passed a bud­get for fis­cal 2016, but gave the gov­er­nor au­thor­ity to cut any of the ap­pro­pri­a­tions be­cause it is un­likely the state will re­ceive enough rev­enue to equal even the scaled-back ex­penses.

The south­east Kansas town of In­de­pen­dence, pop­u­la­tion 9,500, lost its only hospi­tal in Oc­to­ber. Mercy Hospi­tal was more than a cen­tury old, and the emer­gency room saw about 8,000 vis­its a year.

More than 70 ru­ral hos­pi­tals in the country have closed since Jan­uary 2010, ac­cord­ing to a North Carolina ru­ral health re­search cen­ter.

Re­search by iVan­tage Health An­a­lyt­ics re­leased this year found that nearly 12 mil­lion pa­tients are at risk of los­ing care be­cause of the more than 650 ru­ral hos­pi­tals across the na­tion fac­ing clo­sure.

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