Rural hospitals are the heart and soul of their communities.
 
Around 20 percent of Americans depend on caregivers at these hospitals for their primary health and wellness services. Beyond providing critical care, rural hospitals all across our nation are pillars of their local economies – creating essential jobs in their neighborhoods and surrounding regions.
 
Caregivers and support teams at rural hospitals face unique issues. They have long grappled with low-patient volume, a shortage of health care professionals, and disruptive shifts in local demographics and the economy. More emergent challenges include the opioid epidemic, violence in our communities, cyber threats and “surge” capacity – the ability to respond to large-scale emergencies.
 
While many hospitals and health systems have sought mergers and affiliations to pool resources and keep the doors open, that strategy doesn’t always work. In fact, 95 rural hospitals have closed since 2010.
 
Fortunately, diagnosis is not prognosis. The challenges confronting our vital rural hospitals can be met successfully with a new spirit of commitment and cooperation among all stakeholders, particularly at the federal level.
 
Today, the AHA released a new report outlining specific legislative and policy recommendations. If adopted, they can have a major, positive effect on rural communities, including expanded access to telehealth services, and fair and adequate reimbursement that covers the cost of care. See AHA President and CEO Rick Pollack’s Feb. 1 Perspective column to learn more.
 
For millions of Americans who live, work and raise their families in rural areas, access to care is everything. We must act now – and together – to protect local access to high-quality, affordable care and empower rural hospitals to thrive as cornerstones of their communities for generations to come.

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