Kentucky Health News: Rural hospitals continue to be at risk of closing; federal policy complicates pay

From the Northern Kentucky Tribune:

Rural hospital closures are a growing trend, and federal policies don’t support a model that would include a scaled-back version of services. But that’s what many rural hospitals need to do in order to ensure their future, Mary Meehan reports for Ohio Valley ReSource, a public-radio partnership that covers Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia, especially their Appalachian areas.

“The reality is that many rural communities can’t really support a full-fledged hospital. They may need primary care and perhaps emergency department services, let’s say a primary care clinic attached to an emergency department,” Ty Borders, director of the Rural and Underserved Health Research Center at the University of Kentucky, told Meehan.

But federal policy complicates that simplified model for care, Borders said: “Medicare won’t pay for that. Medicare will only pay for hospital or emergency department services that are in a hospital. And in most rural communities, that’s a critical-access hospital,” which limits its beds, services and patient stays in return for slightly larger federal reimbursements.

“Which are the hospitals that are closing,” Meehan reports as she details the struggles and closures of several rural hospitals, starting with the Owen County Hospital in Owenton, which closed in 2016.

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