Already struggling rural hospitals prepare for the burden of Medicaid changes

The threat of losing reimbursements because of upcoming changes in federal government policy is yet another burden for already struggling rural hospitals, according to a Feb. 21 New Hampshire Bulletin report.

Along with such ongoing inflation-related issues as higher costs for food and supplies, rural hospitals now face an additional challenge as they are about to lose Medicaid reimbursements because of changes in the ​​Families First Coronavirus Response Act. That pandemic-related act required states to allow Medicaid recipients to stay enrolled even if their eligibility changed, but such a requirement will end April 1.

The impact may be twofold, the report said. Not only will there be a loss of reimbursement for services, but uninsured patients could delay services and only go to the hospital when their conditions are more severe.

"We are all being forced to try to eke out a sustainable margin because of those [inflation] factors," said Donald Lloyd, CEO and president of St. Claire HealthCare in Morehead, Ky. "And then with the potential loss of reimbursement for those who did qualify, that's just going to add an additional layer of burden upon rural institutions."

More than 150 rural hospitals closed before the pandemic between 2005 and 2019, according to the Center for Healthcare Quality and Payment Reform. More than another 200 are now under threat of closure as the Medicaid program expires, the center said.

Between 5 million and 14 million people will lose their coverage as a result of these changes, the Kaiser Family Foundation estimates. 

More details can be found here.

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