Report Finds 700 Rural Hospitals Are Financially Vulnerable

New York, N.Y. A recent report using data from iVantage Health Analytics has made some worrying conclusions about the current state and short term future of healthcare in some of the country’s rural regions. The index created by iVantage highlights a staggering 673 rural hospitals as in a state of financial vulnerability, with 210 of these identified as being at high risk of imminent closure.

Guantanamo_captive's_hospital_beds_-cA modern hospital bed. Photo: Wikipedia.

This is not a new problem, either, it seems, with 66 rural hospitals having closed down their operations in the period between the start of 2010 and January 25th 2016. However, it does seem that certain decisions – including refusal to expand Medicaid availability in some states – have exacerbated the problems facing rural healthcare providers and their financial conditions. There is certainly a clear downward trend shown in this analysis that sees more hospitals making their way into ‘at risk’ categories than ever before.

Where Are the at Risk Hospitals?

While the struggles of rural hospitals to remain financially viable are worrying healthcare finance news in themselves, another outcome of these findings is equally troubling, as there seems to be a big divide between the North and South of the USA when it comes to at risk rural hospitals.

The state of Texas has the largest number of rural hospitals flagged as vulnerable in the iVantage index, with 75 hospitals in total included. The state of Mississippi has the highest percentage of its hospitals included in the vulnerable category, at 79%. On the other hand, the District of Columbia and eight states have no at risk hospitals at all on the index, and these all tend to be outside of the Southern States. This means that healthcare in the South is at much greater risk of declining should the at risk hospitals fail and close.

What Would Be the Impact of Rural Hospital Closures?

Some of the impacts hospital closures would have in rural areas are fairly obvious – it would be far more difficult for people, who may already have to travel a long way for healthcare, to get the treatment they need. However, there is a wider social impact. In rural communities, a hospital is often one of the biggest providers of jobs, with the healthcare sector itself plus all of the other services needed to run a hospital providing employment to people of all different skill sets. Losing these hospitals would have a huge impact on the local economies which would lead to issues on a national level.

Some Estimates of the Impact

If all of the 673 hospitals identified in this report were to close their doors, it could trigger a major healthcare and economic crisis, with 137,000 jobs in rural communities and 99,000 healthcare specific jobs lost. Additionally, healthcare itself would decline with 11.7 million patient encounters lost. This is all estimated to add up to, over a decade, a loss of $277 billion to our GDP.

It is clear that the situation in our rural hospitals is troubling, and has the potential to turn into a crisis if measures are not taken to help make providing healthcare in rural areas more financially viable.

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The Editors
The Stewardship Report on Connecting Goodness is the communications platform of The James Jay Dudley Luce Foundation ( There are now more than 100 contributors around the world to this publication.

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