64 closures in 5 years

Rural hospital closures increased dramatically in the past 5 years

Financial pressures have led many rural hospitals to close. Southern hospitals and for-profit hospitals were impacted most.

Sixty-four rural hospitals closed between 2013-2017, according to a new report form the U.S. Government Accountability Office. This is twice the number of closures that occurred in the previous five-year period.

Rural hospitals represent nearly half of hospitals nationwide and 16 percent of inpatient beds.

Almost half of the hospitals that closed transitioned to another type of health care facility such as urgent care, emergency care, outpatient care or primary care.

Why they closed:

Most rural hospitals closed during this period because of financial turmoil. They experienced Medicare payment reductions and had fewer patients seeking inpatient care. The closed hospitals usually had negative margins and weren’t able to cover their fixed costs.

States where Medicaid eligibility and enrollment increased had fewer rural hospital closures.

Life in rural vs. urban areas

Characteristic Rural areas Urban areas
Elderly resident population in 2014 18% of population 14% of population
Limitations in activities caused by chronic conditions in 2010-2011 18% of adults  13% of adults
Median household income in 2014 $44,000 $58,000
Population change from 2010-2015 Declined on average by .07 percent per year Increased on average by .9 percent per year
Employment growth from 2010-2015 Increased .8 percent per year Increased 1.9 percent per year

Source: U.S. Government Accountability Office

Characteristics of rural hospital closures

Southern hospitals: More than three-quarters of rural hospital closures from 2013 to 2017 occurred in the South. In 2013, 38 percent of the nation’s rural hospitals were located in this region.

Medicare Dependent hospitals: One-quarter of rural hospital closures from 2013 to 2017 were hospitals that had a Medicare Dependent designation.

For-profit hospitals: Thirty-six percent of rural hospital that closed between 2013 and 2017 were for-profit institutions.

To learn more, see the full report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office here.

Further reading:

Best hospitals in America as chosen by doctors
America’s best hospitals, as ranked by U.S. News

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