‘Keeping rural hospitals healthy is an urgent matter’

kha

New Study Reports on the Vulnerability of Rural Kansas Hospitals

1 in 3 rural hospitals in Kansas are classified as vulnerable and “at risk” of closure.

(February 5, 2016) – iVantage® Health Analytics, a leading national provider of health care analytics and decision support tools, released its 2016 Hospital Strength INDEX Study this week, which assessed and benchmarked rural and Critical Access Hospital performance. Of the 107 rural hospitals in Kansas, 31 are classified as vulnerable and “at risk” of closure, according to the study. Last year, Kansas had 17 at-risk hospitals, according to the study. Nationally, 67 hospitals have closed since 2010. In Kansas, Mercy Hospital in Independence, closed in October 2015.

The 2016 analysis suggests the situation is worsening for many rural communities. The loss of a hospital can have a lasting impact on its community. In Kansas, the study estimates if the state’s 31 vulnerable hospitals were to close, the state could potentially face:

  • 2,952 health care jobs lost
  • 235,654 patient encounters
  • 4,073 community jobs lost
  • $8.3 billion loss to the GDP (10 years) A combination of factors contribute to the hospitals’ at-risk status.

Significant downward pressure on rural hospital margins is fueled by:

  • Rural hospitals tend to serve disproportionately poorer, sicker and older patients
  • Failure to expand Medicaid: the number of uninsured patients is typically higher in states that have not expanded Medicaid, which means rural hospitals receive less money in reimbursements from Medicaid and provide more uncompensated care
  • Rural hospitals have endured decreases in Medicare reimbursement that began in 2013, including sequestration, charity care/bad-debt reimbursement cuts and disproportionate share payment cuts

Keeping rural hospitals healthy is an urgent matter. Right now, Kansas hospitals are working to develop more sustainable health care systems and encourage the development of new models of health care delivery. With grant funding from the United Methodist Health Ministry Fund, Hutchinson, KS, five Kansas hospitals are testing the viability and effectiveness of two ambulatory care alternatives to full hospital services. These models were developed by hospital executives who began meeting in 2012 in response to the ever changing health care needs of rural communities in Kansas. Kansas hospitals welcome the opportunity to work with the Administration and its new rural health care working group; however, we need swift action as the deficit in revenue support for rural health care systems is a fundamental problem.

One way to keep health care accessible in our rural and urban communities is to insure more patients. The Bridge to a Healthy Kansas, a new, budget-neutral health care solution, will provide more low-income, hardworking Kansans with health care coverage, which in turn helps maintain access to local health care services in rural and urban Kansas communities. It also will reduce the occurrence of uncompensated care for the uninsured and the associated costs that are passed along to hospitals and other health care providers.

Kansans rely on hospitals to provide essential health care services in their communities 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Hospitals are economic engines to Kansas communities and are critical to sustaining the overall resources of the State. Hospitals support job growth; for each individual employed by a Kansas community hospital, another 0.83 jobs were supported in other businesses and industries in Kansas.

The Kansas Hospital Association is a voluntary, non-profit organization existing to be the leading advocate and resource for members. KHA membership includes 212 member facilities, of which 126 are full-service, community hospitals. Founded in 1910, KHA’s vision is: “Optimal Health for Kansas.”

For further information: Contact – Cindy Samuelson Mobile – (785) 249-1727 csamuelson@kha-net.org

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LOCAL NEWS

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Checking addresses

The Belleville Telescope

Clerk’s office works to identify any voters who have moved for upcoming mail ballot election

Work is underway to prepare for a mail ballot election this spring to vote on a sales tax to support Republic County Hospital operations.

The ballots will be counted May 10. Election Clerk Beth Ball said ballots will be mailed April 10. Some registered voters–but not everyone–will get postcards soon to verify their mailing addresses, she said.

“These are confirmation cards that are sent to voters that may have moved and not reregistered,” she said. “I will be aggressively working on voter registration for this election as every active registered voter will get mailed a ballot and I want to make sure voter registration is as clean as possible.

“It is important if people get these post cards they don’t ignore them or throw them away,” she said. “Please fill out the information requested, sign them, and mail them back to us.”

Anyone with questions about whether they are registered to vote and whether their mailing address is current can call the Republic County Clerk’s office at 785-5277231 to verify their information, she said.

Voters will be asked to continue a one-cent sales tax that will be used to support hospital operations. The current sales tax will expire this summer whenever enough funds are collected to pay off the $5 million in bonds that were issued to finance the hospital renovation project in 2003.That sales tax cannot continue without approval of voters.

Good response

The last mail ballot election in the county was in March 2003 to vote on the sales tax for that project. In that election, nearly 80% approved the question nearly 2-1.

Ball said that there are 3,675 registered voters in Republic County today.

“We want everyone in the county to have input on this question, and believe that a mail ballot is the best way to reach the most voters,” says Blaine Miller, Republic County Hospital administrator.

Miller said any club or civic group or community organization that would like to schedule a program for more information on the hospital or the sales tax can contact him at the hospital, 785-527-2254.

In 2014, county voters approved authorization of up to 12 mills of property tax to help fund hospital operations for three years only: 2015, 2016 and 2017. By law, the county can only levy up to six mills to support the hospital without a vote of citizens.