TOPEKA (KSNT) – The Center for Healthcare Quality & Payment Reform (HQPR) Rural Hospitals at Risk of Closing report found 28% of rural Kansas hospitals at immediate risk of closure.

With pandemic aid now ended, closures are likely to increase, according to HQPR. The HQPR report found 600 rural hospitals in the U.S. at risk of closing.

HQPR attributed the risk to problems such as health Insurance plans not paying hospitals enough to cover the cost of delivering service to patients and low financial reserves. The losses are expected to be greater in the future due to higher costs attributed to inflation, according to the HQPR report.

Kansas has had nine rural hospital closures since 2005 and currently has 104 rural hospitals. In total, 83% of rural hospitals in Kansas are operating at a median loss with 86 hospitals impacted. There are 60 rural hospitals at risk of closing in Kansas with 58% of hospitals affected. There are 29 hospitals at immediate risk of closure impacting 28% of rural hospitals in Kansas, according to the report.

Governor Laura Kelly announced she would be pushing for Medicaid expansion on Tuesday in response to the HQPR report.

“Already, too many rural hospitals have shut their doors. When that happens, the communities have been devastated. These Kansans have to drive hours now to receive their basic care. There is an obvious way to stop the bleeding: Expand Medicaid.”

Governor Laura Kelly

The HQPR report said increasing payments to prevent closures of at-risk rural hospitals would cost about $4 billion per year and represent only a 1/10 of 1% increase in national healthcare spending.

The largest cause of losses is underpayments for primary care and emergency services, according to the HQPR report. The report said spending would likely increase if more hospitals close because care would cause residents in rural communities to be sicker and need more future services.