Editorial: Rural HEALTH Act a worthy step toward saving rual hospitals

Tonopah hospital is closed. (R-J photo)

After the closure of Tonopah’s only hospital nearly a year ago left area residents hours away from an emergency room, Republican Rep. Cresent Hardy, whose district covers southern rural Nevada, began researching ways to protect the financial well-being of rural hospitals.

A couple of weeks ago, he and an Alabama Democratic congressman introduced a bipartisan bill called the Rural Health Enhancement and Long Term Health Act of 2016, known by the acronym Rural HEALTH Act.

The bill reauthorizes the State Offices of Rural Health Grant Program and increases its five-year funding from $10 million to $15 million. It also allows matching grants for building new and updating existing hospitals of up to $100,000.

The bill also requires additional oversight from the Department of Health and Human Services, requiring it to report on the state of the nation’s rural health system — something that hasn’t been done since 2003. The report must include the number and cause of rural hospital closures and examine how those hospitals might have been saved.

Rep. Hardy said in a statement, which closely followed his speech on the floor of the House, “What we found was shocking. More than 30 percent of America’s rural hospitals are vulnerable to conditions that have caused the closure of 71 facilities since 2010. Rural communities are home to some of our most resilient people, but they are too often overlooked for that very reason. We need to act now to prevent more families from losing their lifelines in times of emergency.”

A press release from Hardy’s office quotes Teryl Eisinger, executive director of the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health, as saying, “Rural health care systems throughout the country continue to operate in a fragile state. By reauthorizing the State Office of Rural Health grant program, this bipartisan legislation will help provide improved access to quality health care for the 61 million Americans living in rural areas.”

The Rural HEALTH Act is supported by the Nevada Hospital Association, the Nevada State Office of Rural Health, the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health and the American Osteopathic Association.

The hospitals that would be affected by this bill include: Banner Churchill Community Hospital in Fallon, Battle Mountain General Hospital, Boulder City Hospital, Carson Valley Medical Center in Gardnerville, Desert View Hospital in Pahrump, Grover C. Dils Medical Center in Caliente, Humboldt General Hospital in Winnemucca, Incline Village Community Hospital, Mesa View Regional Hospital in Mesquite, Mount Grant

General Hospital in Hawthorne, Northeastern Nevada Regional Hospital in Elko, Pershing General Hospital in Lovelock, South Lyon Medical Center in Yerington and William Bee Ririe Hospital in Ely.

Though we generally favor regulatory relief rather than further expenditures of tax money, this bill is hardly a drop in the black hole of federal spending and should provide the oversight that might indeed find that regulatory burdens are too cumbersome for rural hospitals.

We encourage Nevada’s congressional delegation to get behind this bill and examine still more ways to protect rural health availability.

A version of this editorial appears this past week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.

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19 comments on “Editorial: Rural HEALTH Act a worthy step toward saving rual hospitals

  1. John Gordon Edwards says:

    Agreed. Small town Nevada should have better health care.

  2. Rincon says:

    Sounds sort of socialistic. Why don’t you want the market to decide where hospitals should be?

  3. Steve says:

    Because the market has been removed from the service of health care.
    Now we have to try and make rural communities viable under the current socialistic system in spite of the pressure to move everyone into concentrated metropolitan areas and away from any sort of rural life.

  4. nyp says:

    Rural hospital are failing because “the market has been removed from the service of health care”???

    Gee. I thought rural hospitals were failing because they were subject to market forces — the decline of rural populations and the inability of small rural communities to support the expensive modern medical facilities.

    The plight of rural medical care is a good example of how market forces are not capable of generating every single socially desirable outcome.

  5. Steve says:

    Obamacares!
    Medicares!
    Medicaids!

    All serve to lower the costs and narrow the networks. Hospitals and doctors are dropping off like flies.

  6. Anonymous says:

    If only we didn’t have Medicare, hospitals in rural communities would be able to thrive

  7. Steve says:

    Grew up in a very small town. We had a town doctor. Today that same small town has no doctor or medical services at all.
    What changed over the decades?

    Obamacares!
    Medicares!
    Medicaids!
    These were either nonexistent or very small in comparison to today’s versions.
    The marketplace provided back then, the change has been to push the market out and this has pushed the small town doctor out.

  8. nyp says:

    If only we eliminated Medicare and Medicaid everyone would be able to afford to go to a rural hospital.

  9. Steve says:

    You don’t like the truth, what I pointed out, the push is to get rid of rural life and force everyone to live in metropolitan areas. that is what I said to start but you want it to be all about socialist service as success.

    In the large population centers, warrens of crowded living, these social services get good marks because they can hide the failures. While one of the liberal socialist goals is achieved, eliminating rural living.

  10. Rural hospitals can’t stay open when they are paid less to treat patients — under Medicare/caid — than it costs to provide treatment.

  11. Nyp says:

    That’s why we should abolish Medicare. I’m sure it will all be fine when Gramps has to pay out of his own pocket for that heart valve replacement

  12. Steve says:

    As usual, nyp wants to twist it up.
    The idea Mitch mentions is a good one, legislation forcing the socialists to support rural medical care instead of letting those same socialists shut down rural life.

  13. Rincon says:

    Amazing how you claim that Medicare pays less than it takes to support the costs of medical care facilities and yet European, Japanese and Australian facilities are paid far less and their people live longer. Face it kids. The main reasons for rural hospitals folding are 1) Small towns have a lot fewer people than they once did and 2) Medical equipment today is a tad more costly than in the good old days. Used to be that an X-ray machine was all you needed for imaging. Now, you need ultrasound, CAT scans, MRI’s, PET scans, etc. They require a certain patient load to keep those machines busy and small towns often don’t have enough. A lot of rural patients get referred to bigger facilities in urban areas.

    You guys are listening to the Tea Partiers more than you should. It’s clouding your judgement.

  14. Steve says:

    “1) Small towns have a lot fewer people than they once did ”
    Socialist success!

    “Now, you need ultrasound, CAT scans, MRI’s, PET scans, etc”
    And Canada sends patients to the USA for many of those tests, because they can’t afford the equipment!
    (note, I was skeptical of many of the stories I heard about that until I worked with some Canadian citizens from Calgary. While working for Kodak I spent 5 weeks in training with them.)

    ” European, Japanese and Australian facilities are paid far less”
    Countries who began their systems about half a century ago and built them from the ground up.
    To throw that switch here would easily kill the USA.
    Oh, sure, if we could roll back time and take a “do over” then we would be spending less too but at what cost? Would we have all those fancy machines and specialized medical professionals?

    My small town had a doctor. He would refer people to larger places when needed but these town don’t even have that anymore.
    (from the small world department, a VP at Kodak was my town doctor’s nephew, I met him during that same 5 week training)

  15. Rincon says:

    “Small towns have a lot fewer people than they once did ”
    Socialist success!”

    So tell me how your “socialism” emptied small towns. I tend to think that it is due to technological success. Tractors and combines replaced plows and scythes (etc). Pretty simple, really.

  16. Steve says:

    Forcing populations to live in rat warrens is one of the socialist goals.

    Or haven’t you been reading?
    It’s in all the history books.

  17. Patrick says:

    “(CNN)When it comes to health and prosperity, there’s no topping Norway.

    For the 12th year in a row, the land of lefse and lutefisk has earned the number one spot on the United Nations’ 2015 Human Development Index (HDI), released as part of its annual Human Development Report.
    The HDI measures countries in three basic areas — life expectancy, education and income/standard of living.
    Norway earned high marks in all areas to get an overall score of 0.944. Its life expectancy at birth is 81.6 years, while its gross national income (GNI) per capita is $64,992.
    Rounding out the top five are: Australia (0.935), Switzerland (0.930), Denmark (0.923) and the Netherlands (0.922).”

    http://www.cnn.com/2015/12/16/travel/undp-most-liveable-country/

  18. Rincon says:

    The intellectual force of your argument is staggering, Steve. How can I possibly dispute it?

  19. Steve says:

    You would dispute historical fact if you thought you could get away with it!

    You thought I was trying to be anything other than sarcastic?

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