Calhoun Memorial Hospital is closing. The loss of this Georgia hospital is a combination of the failing economy and financial strain caused by uninsured patients and increased number of Medicaid patients.
A handful of other rural hospitals in the state also may be teetering on the brink, with rising levels of uninsured patients and with Medicaid continuing to pay low rates for services.
HomeTown Health, an organization of rural hospitals in Georgia, says a half-dozen facilities could follow Calhoun Memorial’s move and shut down in the coming months.
Providers that accept Medicaid patients receive roughly 20% less than Medicare pays for the same services and Medicare pays about 15% less than private insurance carriers. With more patients relying on Medicaid doctors and hospitals feel the squeeze and have to take action.
Hospitals that accept any kind of federal funds cannot refuse Medicaid patients but doctors and other medical providers are not obligated to treat Medicaid patients.
The 25-bed “critical access’’ Calhoun Memorial is the first rural Georgia hospital to close since Telfair Regional Hospital in McRae, in south-central Georgia, closed in 2008, Lewis said Monday.
Earl Whiteley, CEO of Calhoun Memorial, cited the increase in charity care that the Calhoun County hospital incurred as a major reason for the hospital’s demise.
He told GHN on Monday that indigent charity care rose from $834,000 in 2008 to $1.8 million last year.
“You just can’t continue to give away free care,’’ Whiteley said.
Tell that to the low information voters that gave Obama another 4 years.
Whitley said part of the financial crisis is due to the loss of indigent care funds under Obamacare. Those patients were supposed to be covered under Medicaid expansion but Georgia, like most other states, do not have the money to pay their share of the cost of Medicaid.
Prior to Friday’s action, the Calhoun hospital authority had sold an assisted living facility and its nursing home. The hospital had stopped admitting patients, so there were none left to transfer to other hospitals. A medical clinic will remain open in Arlington, Whiteley said.
The economic impact on Arlington and Calhoun County will be profound, with up to 100 employees losing jobs.
With the closing of this Georgia hospital, local residents will have to drive about 45 minutes to the nearest hospital.