Rural Hospitals Struggle to Provide Maternity Care Due to Financial Challenges and Workforce Issues

By Trish Svoboda

According to the Healthcare Quality & Payment Reform, 55% of the rural hospitals in the United States do not offer labor and delivery services, in Kansas 58% of rural hospitals do not have OB services. More than 200 hospitals across the country have stopped delivering babies in the last 10 years.

This means a pregnant woman may have to travel to a different community to deliver her baby, often more than 30 minutes away. Women who do not have prenatal care available to them locally are less likely to seek proper care for their pregnancies, resulting in a higher risk of complications for both mother and baby.

The release states that due to financial and workforce challenges, maintaining adequate staff while grappling with increased costs proves difficult for rural hospitals. Many private insurance and Medicaid plans offer payments that fall short of covering these expenses, resulting in increasing losses for hospitals providing these services. In addition, many rural hospitals are also losing money on other patient services, such as emergency and primary care, which puts their ability to provide maternity care at risk.

The main issue revolves around private insurance companies underpaying hospitals for services, leading to financial challenges. Rural maternity hospitals that avoid losses often rely on payments from private health plans to cover costs and offset losses from uninsured and Medicaid patients. More information on this issue and how to address it can be found at Rural Hospitals at Risk of Closing.

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