Also, Elehwany says rural hospitals face still another threat to Medicare reimbursements if the 2% cuts mandated by sequestration take effect in January. Averting those cuts would also require election-year action from a gridlocked Congress.
"That 2% across-the-board cut through sequestration disproportionately harms rural providers," Elehwany says. "A large urban facility with a $200 million budget can probably find ways to tighten their belt and cut 2% somewhere. If you're a small rural hospital with maybe a $5 million budget, 2% is a very significant margin, which means you will probably have to cut services. More than 40% of rural hospitals are already operating in the red. Further cuts to Medicare may put some of those over and cause doors to close."
Rural healthcare advocates understand the powerful constituent clout that rural hospitals carry with each member of Congress. Senators and Congressmen don't want hospitals in their districts to close because it represents a trifecta of negativity; lost jobs, lost economic activity, and lost access to healthcare.
With that in mind rural healthcare advocates are urging anyone who cares about the topic to head to Capitol Hill on July 30-31 to make their concerns known to their member of Congress.
"Let them know how important these payments are, what they mean to keeping the doors in these rural hospitals in their districts open," Elehwany says.