Market Characteristics Associated with Rural Hospitals’ Provision of Post-Acute Care

Post-acute care (PAC) in rural hospitals, particularly Critical Access Hospitals (CAHs), represents an important source of PAC access in rural areas. In addition, a rural hospital’s financial health often depends on providing services that meet local need.  Over time, some changes in Medicare payment policies have adversely affected rural providers. For example, when the Balanced… Read more »

Geographic Variation in the 2016 Profitability of Urban and Rural Hospitals

Rural hospital closures remain a worrisome issue for policy makers and communities: between 2010 and 2017, 83 rural hospitals closed. The NC Rural Health Research Program tracks these closures and studies potential predictors. Profitability is not the only predictor, but it is one of the main predictors of hospital closure. Researchers and policy makers are… Read more »

Range Matters: Rural Averages Can Conceal Important Information

Researchers often use averages to describe data.  The average (or the mean) of a data set can be used to identify the central value of the group, or what is typical. While valuable, it’s also important to understand the range of data—the highs and lows.  What might we miss by focusing on the average? When… Read more »

Differences in Community Characteristics of Sole Community Hospitals

In 1983, Congress created the Sole Community Hospital (SCH) program to support small rural hospitals for which “by reason of factors such as isolated location, weather conditions, travel conditions, or absence of other hospitals, is the sole source of inpatient hospital services reasonably available in a geographic area to Medicare beneficiaries.” A SCH is often… Read more »

Rural-Urban Variations in Medicare Live Discharge Patterns from Hospice, 2012-2013

For the last decade-and-a-half, the proportion of patients discharged from the Medicare hospice program prior to death – known as a “live discharge” – has increased across the country with significant hospice-level geographic variations. Despite clear geographic variations in live discharge rates and known rural-urban disparities (e.g., patients of rural hospices have higher satisfaction), previous… Read more »

The Financial Importance of the Sole Community Hospital Payment Designation

In 1983, Congress created the Sole Community Hospital (SCH) program to support small rural hospitals for which “by reason of factors such as isolated location, weather conditions, travel conditions, or absence of other hospitals, is the sole source of inpatient hospital services reasonably available in a geographic area to Medicare beneficiaries.” As such, Medicare SCH… Read more »

The Impact of the Low Volume Hospital (LVH) Program on the Viability of Small, Rural Hospitals

Thanks to a temporary, but substantial expansion of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Low Volume Hospital (LVH) Program, around 500 rural hospitals benefit from LVH payment adjustment. When it was originally implemented in 2005 only five rural hospitals qualified. Under the program, CMS provides an additional payment to qualifying hospitals for the higher costs associated with… Read more »

Trends in Risk of Financial Distress among Rural Hospitals

From January 2005 to July 2016, 118 rural hospitals have closed permanently, not including seven others that closed and subsequently reopened. The number of closures has increased each year since 2010, and in the first half of 2016, the closure rate surpassed two closures per month. Hospital closures impact millions of rural residents in communities… Read more »

Does ACA Insurance Coverage Expansion Improve the Financial Performance of Rural Hospitals?

The implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) is changing hospital reimbursement in important ways.  The most significant changes stem from increasing access to health insurance coverage for previously uninsured or under-insured populations. Since rural residents are more likely than urban residents to be uninsured, increased access to health insurance should, in… Read more »

Characteristics of Medicaid Beneficiaries Who Use Rural Health Clinics

For almost four decades, Rural Health Clinics (RHCs) (currently numbering about 4,100) have served patients from underserved rural areas. Although Medicaid is an important payer for RHCs, little is known about Medicaid patients and the services provided to them partly because of the complexity of identifying claims generated from RHCs in Medicaid claims data sources…. Read more »

Identifying Rural Health Clinics in Medicaid Data

In 1977, Public Law 95-210 created the Rural Health Clinic (RHC) Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement designation for qualified primary care practices. RHCs must be located in non-urban areas with documented health care shortages. There are currently more than 4,100 RHCs across the U.S. Some RHCs operate as independent medical practices, while others are part of… Read more »