Tags: Barack Obama | Healthcare Reform | Obamacare | Rural | Hospitals | Medicare

Obamacare Will Shut Rural Hospitals

By Ronald Kessler   |   Monday, 08 Oct 2012 10:05 AM

Ronald Kessler reporting from Washington, D.C. — Obamacare will shut rural hospitals, forcing patients to drive hours to find a hospital even for emergency care, Dr. Dan Benishek, a Michigan congressman and surgeon, tells Newsmax.

Dr. Benishek says hospital administrators and board members have been telling him that they will have to close their doors because of the $716 billion in cuts President Obama will impose on increases in Medicare reimbursement as a result of Obamacare. While that burden will apply to all hospitals, if a hospital closes in an urban area, other hospitals are still available. In the case of rural hospitals, only one hospital may serve an area covering hundreds of miles.

“I’ve been talking to administrators across my district, and they are all really worried about being able to keep their hospitals open,” says Rep. Benishek, a Republican from Michigan’s 1st Congressional District.

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Last July, the Congressional Budget Office sent a letter to House Speaker John Boehner confirming that if Congress repealed the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, “spending for Medicare would increase by an estimated $716 billion over that 2013-2022 period.”

Benishek was a general surgeon at Dickinson County Healthcare System in Iron Mountain, Mich. for 30 years. He also was a part-time surgeon at the Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center in Iron Mountain.

“They have been cutting costs for the last 20 years as Medicare tried to cope with the decreasing reimbursements, and this additional cost-cutting by Medicare is making it difficult for hospitals to stay open,” says Benishek.

“I was on the board of a hospital for years, and I know that these little hospitals operate on a razor-thin profit margin. Cutting Medicare is just not good medicine for America because they are not going to be able to provide the services that they have been providing. It will make it very difficult for people to have access to care,” Benishek adds.

Just recently, a rural Michigan hospital went bankrupt because of Medicare, says Benishek. When a rural hospital shuts its doors, patients may have to drive hours to obtain care, Benishek says.

“I’ve been taking care of these patients for a long time,” Benishek says. “I know how critical these local hospitals are for urgent care and routine care without having to drive 100 miles away from their families.”

“A larger hospital may be able to absorb some of these cuts better, but they are going to be in trouble as well,” Benishek says. “But when you have a small hospital that is barely making it, you make a significant cut in the dollars to these rural hospitals per year and it is going to make it very difficult for them to stay open. In the urban areas where there are more hospitals, there may be some consolidation, but patients probably will still have access to some sort of care.”

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In the case of Benishek’s Dickinson County Healthcare System, “They lost money last year,” Benishek says. “If it shuts down, patients would have to drive 100 miles to the nearest hospital.”

While President Obama calls the cuts eliminating waste, “There’s not that much waste in these hospitals because they have been cutting costs and waste for the last 20 years,” Benishek says. Cutting reimbursement means not only that rural hospitals close down, but doctors stop taking Medicare and Medicaid patients, Benishek says.

“If more and more of your people are paying diminished rates, you just can't keep your doors open,” Benishek says. “This is critical to rural America, keeping our local community hospitals open and not having people drive for hours to obtain care.”

Ronald Kessler is chief Washington correspondent of Newsmax.com. He is the New York Times bestselling author of books on the Secret Service, FBI, and CIA. Read more reports from Ronald Kessler — Click Here Now.

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