StudioTulsa on Health: Concerning the "Rural Hospitals in Critical Condition" Series in USA TODAY

Jan 13, 2015

On this edition of StudioTulsa on Health, we speak with reporter Laura Ungar of USA TODAY, who's the co-author of an excellent and far-reaching series of articles -- entitled "Rural Hospitals in Critical Condition," and decidedly multi-media in both its execution and presentation -- that have appeared recently in the online and print versions of that newspaper. As noted in the Introduction to this series: "Since the beginning of 2010, 43 rural hospitals -- with a total of more than 1,500 beds -- have closed, according to data from the North Carolina Rural Health Research Program. The pace of closures has quickened: from 3 in 2010 to 13 in 2013, and 12 already this year [in 2014].... The Affordable Care Act was designed to improve access to health care for all Americans...[yet] critics say the ACA is also accelerating the demise of rural outposts that cater to many of society's most vulnerable. These hospitals treat some of the sickest and poorest patients -- those least aware of how to stay healthy. Hospital officials contend that the law's penalties for having to re-admit patients soon after they're released are impossible to avoid and create a crushing burden.... [Such hospital] closings threaten to decimate a network of rural hospitals the federal government first established beginning in the late 1940s to ensure that no one would be without health care. It was a theme that resonated during the push for the new health law. But rural hospital officials and others say that federal regulators -- along with state governments -- are now starving the hospitals they created with policies and reimbursement rates that make it nearly impossible for them to stay afloat." In the wake of National Rural Health Day -- which occurred back in November, and which saw U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack touting new programs to improve access to medical care for rural Americans across the nation -- guest host John Schumann speaks with Ungar about certain health crises now endangering so many of our rural communities.