For the hundreds of rural U.S. hospitals struggling to stay in business, health policy decisions made in Washington, D.C., this summer could make survival a lot tougher.
Since 2010, at least 79 rural hospitals have closed across the country, and nearly 700 more are at risk of closing. These hospitals serve a largely older, poorer and sicker population than most hospitals, and that makes them particularly vulnerable to changes made to Medicaid funding.
"A lot of hospitals like [ours] could get hurt," says Kerry Noble, CEO of Pemiscot Memorial Health Systems, the public hospital in the poorest county in Missouri.
The GOP's American Health Care Act would cut Medicaid — the public insurance program for many low-income families, children and elderly Americans, as well as people with disabilities — by as much as $834 billion. The Congressional Budget Office has said that would result in 23 million more people being uninsured in the next 10 years. Even more could lose coverage under the budget proposed by President Donald Trump, which suggests an additional $610 billion in cuts to the program.