Types of Rural and Urban Hospitals and Counties Where They Are Located

Recognizing that many rural hospitals are the only health care facility in their communities and that their survival is vital to ensure access to health care, Federal policymakers in the 1980s and 1990s created five special payment designations under Medicare: Critical Access Hospital (CAHs), Medicare Dependent Hospitals (MDHs), Sole Community Hospitals (SCHs), Essential Access Community… Read more »

Trends in Revenue Sources among Rural Hospitals

Possible issues with existing rural hospital financing models suggest that newer, outpatient-centric payment methods may be more effective in providing financial relief to rural hospitals. In light of this, the NC Rural Health Research Program explores the current financial importance of outpatient care to rural hospitals in the brief, Trends in Revenue Sources among Rural Hospitals.

Specifically, the objective of our study was to estimate changes in outpatient care as a source of revenue for rural hospitals from 2011-2019. Ideally, the results can provide stakeholders and lawmakers with additional support in understanding the contemporary role that outpatient service lines have in rural hospitals, thereby allowing them to develop policies that more effectively support rural health care providers and the communities they serve.

Rural Hospital Profitability during the Global COVID-19 Pandemic Requires Careful Interpretation

The North Carolina Rural Health Research Program has been tracking rural hospital profitability for more than a decade, as many small rural hospitals struggle with profitability compared to their urban counterparts. The findings brief, , describes the pre-pandemic (2011-19) trend of rural hospital profitability and explains why possible increases in reported profitability during the pandemic… Read more »

Predictors of Hospital Choice among Rural Patients Seeking Elective Surgery: A Scoping Review

Hospital choice for surgery affects both patient outcomes and hospital viability, a greater understanding of rural patients’ surgical care-seeking behavior could enhance rural health and rural hospital financial stability. Specifically, insight on modifiable determinants of care-seeking behavior can inform policies to promote behavior that is consistent with evidence-based public health recommendations (e.g., undergoing common, low-risk… Read more »

Since 1990, Rural Hospital Closures Have Increasingly Occurred in Counties that Are More Urbanized, Diverse, and Economically Unequal

The NC Rural Health Research Program tracks and studies rural hospital closures. Our most recent brief, , describes the socio‐economic, demographic, and health system characteristics for rural counties with and without hospital closures between 1990 and 2020. For the purposes of this analysis, we defined closures as either 1) facilities where health care services are no… Read more »

Rural Hospitals that Closed between 2017‐20: Profitability and Liquidity in the Year Before Closure

In a 2017 article, we presented the Financial Distress Index (FDI). The FDI is an algorithm that uses historical data about hospital financial performance, government reimbursement, organizational characteristics, and market characteristics to predict the current risk of financial distress. The model assigns every rural hospital to one of four financial risk categories: high, mid‐high, mid‐low,… Read more »

2021 CMS Hospital Quality Star Ratings of Rural Hospitals

In July of 2016, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released a new Hospital Quality Star Rating system on the Hospital Compare website.  Under this system, performance on a series of quality metrics is used to assign between one and five stars to a hospital, with a higher number of stars indicating better… Read more »

How Many Hospitals Might Convert to a Rural Emergency Hospital (REH)?

  The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 establishes a Rural Emergency Hospital (REH) designation under the Medicare program. It is difficult to predict rural hospital interest in conversion to REH because conditions of participation through rulemaking and guidance have yet to be established by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). However, some first… Read more »

The Effect of Medicare Payment Standardization Methods on the Perceived Cost of Post-Acute Swing Bed Care in Critical Access Hospitals

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS) use standardized payments to compare Medicare resource use across locations and settings. Currently, CMS uses different payment systems to reimburse post-acute care provided in CAH swing beds versus inpatient prospective payment system (IPPS) hospital swing beds or skilled nursing facilities (SNFs). This results in differential payments for theoretically… Read more »

Rural Hospitalizations for COVID-19: A Snapshot for December10, 2020

Since the onset of COVID-19, public health leaders have emphasized reducing the rate of viral spread to ensure that hospitals did not become overwhelmed. The U.S. DHHS publishes weekly data on individual hospital’s indicators for management of COVID-19 patients. The NC Rural Health Research Program analyzed these data to compare the percent of hospitalized patients… Read more »

CMS Hierarchical Condition Category (HCC) 2014 Risk Scores Are Lower for Rural Medicare Beneficiaries than for Urban Beneficiaries

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) use Hierarchical Condition Categories (HCC) and demographic information to calculate beneficiary risk scores, which predict expected Medicare spending by beneficiaries. CMS-HCC risk scores may be underestimating expected health care utilization among rural beneficiaries compared to urban beneficiaries. Incorrect estimation of expected health care  utilization can lead to… Read more »