Rural hospitals are in a crisis throughout the United States, and Mississippi is no exception. However, Mississippi faces a greater risk than any other state when it comes to hospital closings. This is because Mississippi is the most underserved state in the country, medically – and things are about to get much worse.

Consulting firm Navigant released a national report on rural hospitals early in 2019 that showed 48 percent of Mississippi’s rural hospitals are at “high financial risk.” The report found that 31 of the 64 rural hospitals are in a poor financial state. The hospitals on the list include private and public hospitals.

To be in the category of high financial risk, you must exhibit high debt, poor profits, and low cash reserves. Some of the hospitals named on the list have only a handful of days of cash reserves. Ryan Kelly, the executive director of the Mississippi Rural Health Association, explained:

I worry about them. I know we have a lot of good people working there, just trying to keep their doors open. A billing person’s out sick for a week, and they’re out of money. Any one little thing could cause them to close their doors. I don’t think that the report itself is the full story but it certainly paints a picture of the struggle that our rural hospitals are having right now.

No clear reason or pattern for why some hospitals are broke

When reviewing the 31 hospitals in the report, there doesn’t appear to be any reason or pattern for why the hospitals are at-risk for closing. There are private and public hospitals at-risk of closing. There are hospitals with 100 beds and there are hospitals with 25 beds on the list. Some of the hospitals stand by themselves, while others are associated with larger groups. There’s just one common thread among the list and it’s that all 31 are located in Mississippi.

Between late 2018 and early 2019, four rural hospitals in Mississippi declared bankruptcy. Five rural hospitals in the state have closed for good since 2010. That number places Mississippi fourth in the country for rural hospital closing during that timeframe.

Fighting for economic relief during the COVID-19 pandemic

Mississippi Representative Steven Palazzo wrote an open letter to Congress this past March pleading for aid for rural hospitals in Mississippi and across the country during the COVID-19 pandemic:

I certainly understand that other industries are absorbing significant financial losses; however, it is the hospitals and health-care workers who stand on the front lines of providing care to patients and battling COVID-19 from a further spread. Meanwhile, hospitals are still caring for cancer patients, trauma patients and patients with other significant needs. For Mississippi hospitals in my district and throughout the state, COVID-19 is not an “either-or”; it is a “but also” for an already strained industry.

With more hospitals at risk of closing due to high debt, low cash reserves, and other reasons it could become increasingly difficult to obtain medical care in Mississippi. Call the office of Merkel & Cocke, P.A. at 662-627-9641, or complete a contact form online to schedule a consultation. We have offices in Jackson, Clarksdale, and Oxford so our clients are better served by our legal team.