The Center for Healthcare Quality and Payment Reform (“CHQPR”) has issued an alarming report finding that more than 600 rural hospitals – nearly 30% of the country’s total – are at risk of closing in the near future. Of these, over 200 are at risk of immediate closure. This continues a trend that began before the Pandemic. Between 2005 and 2019, over 150 rural hospitals closed and 19 more closed in 2020. Only six rural hospitals closed in 2021 and 2022, but that was largely due to COVID-related financial assistance. The expiration of that financial assistance, combined with inflation, workforce shortages, and low reimbursement rates increases the risk of rural hospital closures.
In its report, the CHQPR listed the number of rural hospitals in each state that have closed since 2005, the number of rural hospitals in each state at risk of closure, and the number of rural hospitals in each state at risk of immediate closure. The states with the highest number of the 200 rural hospitals at risk of immediate closure are Alabama with 15, Kansas with 16, Mississippi with 24, Oklahoma with 15, Tennessee with 17, and Texas with 12. Only seven states do not have any rural hospitals at risk of immediate closure.
In addition, with respect to the 600 rural hospitals at risk of closure, the CHQPR list shows that some states are at risk of losing the majority of their rural hospitals, including Alabama, which risks losing 60% of its rural hospitals, and Texas, which risks losing 50% of its rural hospitals.
The CHQPR report highlights the devastating impact to communities when rural hospitals close:
Most of the at-risk hospitals are located in isolated rural communities. Closure of the hospital would mean the community residents would have to travel a long distance for emergency or inpatient care. Moreover, in many small rural communities, the hospital is the only place where residents can get laboratory tests or imaging studies, and it may be the only or principal source of primary care in the community. As a result, loss of the hospital would mean loss of access to many essential healthcare services.
The CHQPR report is linked here.