Rural hospitals are closing their doors
“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.