Thanks to Georgia’s petulant refusal to expand their Medicaid programs, yet another rural hospital will be closing it’s doors. That brings Georgia up to four closed hospitals in just two years, as reported by the Albany Herald, and the number is ever-increasing. Many hospitals that serve mostly poor and uninsured patients are closing up shop simply due to their states refusal of the ACA Medicaid expansion.
The Lower Oconee Community Hospital, a 25 bed “critical access” facility in southeastern Georgia, will shut down and potentially re-open as an urgent care center that will provide watered-down services that don’t justify a trip to the emergency room. Wheeler County residents will now need to travel up to thirty miles to receive more extensive treatments. Pretty sad considering one in four people in Wheeler County is uninsured. Not to mention one in ten residents are unemployed and over 40 percent of their children live in poverty. But if those children don’t want to live in poverty, they should just tell their parents to get a better job, right? Because clearly that’s the solution.
In an interview with local CBS affiliate WMAZ, CEO Karen O’Neal said,
“We just did not have sufficient volume to support the expenses. It’s a terrible situation, and it’s tragic, the loss of jobs and the economic impact.”
Last fall, Bloomberg reported that at least five public hospitals, three in Georgia alone, were cutting staff and reducing services due to their refusal to expand the state’s Medicaid program. These hospitals are referred to as “Disproportionate Share Hospitals” because they serve a disproportionate number of poor and uninsured residents. Because of this, these facilities don’t always receive payments for the care they administer.
Approximately five million working poor Americans living in states refusing President Obama’s Medicaid expansion will fall into a coverage gap where they make too much money to qualify for existing state Medicaid programs, but too little money to qualify for the insurance subsidies of the Affordable Care Act. And, surprise-surprise, 500,000 Americans in this coverage gap are Georgia residents. Way to go, Georgia.