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Heavy Hospital Bed Losses Dramatize How Unprepared U.S. Is for an Epidemic Like Coronavirus

Feb. 15, 2020 (EIRNS)—The wave of hospital closures in the U.S., especially in rural areas, creates an automatic lack of capacity for handling emergency diseases, or even seasonal influenza and routine medical needs, as evidenced in Texas this week. On Feb. 13 there appeared two headlines the same day in the capital, Austin. First, in the Austin Statesman, “Proposed Medicaid Change Could Hurt Texas Hospitals,” referring to the fact that many that will close if their federal payments for poor patients are cut. Second, in Community Impact, “The First Coronavirus Case in Texas Was Just Confirmed. Here Is What Austinites Need To Know about the Virus.”

Statewide in Texas, at least 24 rural hospitals have closed since 2010, which is 15% of the state’s total. Right now, some 158 rural hospitals remain open, but half of them are operating at a loss. The proposal that the federal government will reduce Medicaid rates of payment to these institutions will shut them down.

Not just hospital staff, but the Texas Chamber of Commerce and others are activated against the federal government implementing its proposal to cut funding. The public comment period on it ended Feb. 1. It is not known when, or if, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services will act.

The President of the Texas Organization of Rural and Community Hospitals John Henderson told the Austin Statesman Feb. 13, “This is as scary as anything we have dealt with in my 20 or so years in rural health care.” The same situation exists in states across the country.

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