Marketplace: Rural hospitals expect to see a boost with changes to Medicare reimbursement

EXCERPT: “Many rural hospitals have had to get creative these days because they are struggling to make ends meet. In the past decade, more than 100 rural hospitals have closed nationwide, largely due to financial problems. Others have had to freeze, or even cut salaries. Some have eliminated important services, like obstetrics and gynecology. But change is coming from Medicare. Soon, many rural hospitals across the country will get more money from the federal program. Starting Oct. 1, reimbursement rates will go up for hospitals in the bottom 25% of the index. It is a big deal for Alabama, according to Glenn Sisk, CEO of Coosa Valley Medical Center. ‘Rural Alabama hospitals have the lowest reimbursement from Medicare in the United States,’ Sisk said. Medicare uses a complicated formula, called the wage index, to determine reimbursement rates across the country. It is based on the idea that salaries are higher in certain states and bigger cities, so hospitals in those areas receive more money for the same services. Sisk said the index is unfair to rural providers, which are often in less expensive areas, and he said the formula does not reflect the true operating costs for many hospitals.” FULL STORY: