What This Hospital Has to Do to Just Stay Open is Horrifying

May 18th 2017

Thor Benson

People using crowdfunding services like GoFundMe to pay for medical procedures has become a common occurrence, but one hospital in Tennessee is using crowdfunding just to stay open.

copper basin medical center

It's trying to raise at least $100,000, and, as of Thursday, it only has just under $1,000.

The GoFundMe page says Copper Basin Medical Center in Copperhill, Tennessee, has already had to suspend in-patient services and cut its staff to stay open, but it's unlikely the hospital will manage to keep its doors open without some help.

"Copper Basin Medical Center is the only hospital located in Polk County Tennessee!! Without the help of our community we will not be able to survive!" the page reads. "The hospital has fallen on hard times and in the ever competitive world of health care it is becoming increasingly harder for the smaller hospitals to compete effectively and efficiently! We are trying to remain a respectable facility and uphold ourselves to the highest standards of care to provide the best patient care possible! Help us provide that for your family members!!"

It might seem like this is a unique situation where one hospital ran into some financial trouble, but it's actually part of a larger problem.

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Rural hospitals across the nation have had trouble getting ample funding in the past decade, and many have closed. If Republicans pass their health care bill, that problem might get worse. ATTN: reached out to Copper Basin Medical Center but did not receive a response by time of publication.

"The coverage gains under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) drove substantial reductions in hospitals’ uncompensated care burdens," Matthew Fiedler, a fellow with the Center for Health Policy at the Brookings Institute, told ATTN:. "The coverage losses under the American Health Care Act (ACHA) would likely reverse all or most of those gains. For hospitals that are already financially fragile, those increases in uncompensated care costs could have significant negative effects."

Maggie Elehwany, a lobbyist with the National Rural Health Association, told NPR in January that one reason rural hospitals have been struggling so much is that many Republican-controlled states chose not to expand Medicaid under Obamacare. More people in the Medicaid system would mean more people coming into these hospitals with health insurance.

rural hospital

"We've had 80 rural hospitals close since 2010. If this rate continues, in less than 10 years time, we're going to have 25 percent of rural hospitals close within less than a decade," Elehwany said.

Fiedler went on to add that in some areas "ensuring broad insurance coverage will be enough to ensure that a hospital has a large enough market to operate," but in some rural areas there simply isn't a large enough population to support a modern hospital. So those communities may have to decide what's the best for their individual situations. He said some communities may decide it's best to "provide a stripped-down set of outpatient and emergency services locally, make some services available electronically, and have people travel to receive in-patient services."

If the U.S. lawmakers in Congress don't create a health care plan that keeps rural hospitals funded, it's quite likely there could be very few left in a decade or so.