The Crisis in Rural Health Care
What if you had an accident and the closest Emergency Room was over 30 minutes away?
What if you were sick and there were no physicians or hospital beds in your community?
Millions of Americans live in rural communities that don’t have essential healthcare services such as a hospital, an emergency room, or a primary care clinic. They face long delays in getting care if they’re in an accident or have symptoms of a heart attack, stroke, or an infectious disease such as COVID-19. Even if they have insurance to pay for health care services, there is nowhere in their community they can use it.
More and more Americans are facing this situation because rural hospitals are being forced to close. Many small rural hospitals not only provide access to prompt emergency care in case of an accident or sudden illness; they are often the principal or sole provider of all healthcare services in their community, including laboratory testing, maternity care, rehabilitation, and even primary care. When these hospitals close, all healthcare services in the community can disappear.
More than 130 rural hospitals have closed over the past decade, and more than 800 additional rural hospitals — 40% of all rural hospitals in the country — are at risk of closing in the near future. Over 500 hospitals were at immediate risk of closure even before the coronavirus pandemic because they had experienced large financial losses over multiple years. Over 300 additional hospitals were at high risk of closing due to low financial reserves or high dependence on local taxes or state grants. Higher costs and financial losses during the coronavirus pandemic have made the situation even worse. Millions of people could be directly harmed if these hospitals close.
Locations of Rural Hospitals in the U.S.