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