Many Indiana rural hospitals in financial bind due to pandemic

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Many rural hospitals throughout the state of Indiana are in a financial bind because of the coronavirus pandemic and are at risk.

A new report from the Indiana Hospital Association shows that all hospitals in Indiana, whether they be in an urban or rural part of the state, have been operating at a negative average margin of 8.3-percent.

Put simply, hospitals are losing money and not taking in enough revenue to make up for the losses. The report from the IHA shows the problem gets worse for hospitals in rural areas where they are operating at a negative average margin of nearly 28-percent.

“Throughout this pandemic, what we say was as revenue fell, costs rose,” said IHA President Brian Tabor to Inside Indiana Business. “I think a lot of folks had concerns about the future of our rural healthcare safety net before the pandemic. I think with the financial toll we’ve had because of COVID, some of those facilities face an even more uncertain future.”

Part of the reason for the loss in revenue is a 26-percent decrease in the number of people going to the hospital for care and a 40-percent drop in people visiting the emergency room. Outpatient surgeries have fallen off by 50-percent since the pandemic started.

That all means less money coming in, according to Tabor. Still, he added that rural hospitals were feeling the financial tension even before the pandemic.

“Before COVID, 31-percent of Indiana’s rural hospitals were at financial risk,” said Tabor. “That’s already a warning sign even before we got into the period that we are in now.”

Tabor said the way forward is for lawmakers in both Indianapolis and Washington to create policies to help elevate pressure being felt by rural healthcare providers.

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