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Americans Lose Access to Health Care as Rural Hospitals Close

Americans Lose Access to Health Care as Rural Hospitals Close

The impossible cost of health care in Appalachia: $40,000 for a single ambulance ride. We take a look at the cost of health care consolidation in rural America.

When Heather Edwards’ contractions began three months early, in March, she worried about the long drive to the hospital from her home nestled in the Appalachian Mountains in Jonesville, Va., a town of fewer than 1,000 people. Edwards, 32, was carrying quadruplets and hers was considered a high-risk pregnancy. The nearest hospital with a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) was an hour away in Kingsport, Tenn., Holston Valley Medical Center.

“A decade ago she could have found an emergency room, if not a NICU, 10 minutes up the road at Lee County Regional Medical Center in Pennington Gap, Va., but the hospital closed in 2013 due to low community use, a lack of local physicians and Virginia’s refusal to expand Medicaid, which left the state’s rural hospitals to provide uncompensated care to uninsured patients. In 2012, the Lee County hospital was nearly $2.5 million in the red.

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Case Studies

I’m pleased because I don’t have to make a 4 ½-hour drive to get my infusion. It’s great that we can now have the therapy that I needed right here.

Walter

I’m very fortunate and so grateful for everything the center does for me. The wait is short and I’m in and out in no time. Without this local service, I couldn’t keep my job. I wouldn’t be able to take care of my family or enjoy my life.

CIS Rural Patient

They monitored me, they took care of me. The infection that was causing the pain began to go away. I can tell you now I’m able to stand on both legs. After the infusion therapy, I was able to resume the activity that I truly enjoy, playing the guitar and exploring the wonders of music.

Stanley

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