June 24, 2024

Keeping Media and Government Accountable.

Media pushes Medicaid expansion with slanted coverage of Oswego hospital closure

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An AON study for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment says Medicaid expansion would have netted Oswego Rural Hospital just $82,386 in additional revenue in 2018, but media used today’s announcement of the hospital’s closing to raise sympathy for expansion.

Hospital leadership announced today that a southeast Kansas hospital and two clinics it operates are closing immediately. Oswego Community Hospital’s board of directors announced the closures on Valentine’s Day.

“The trickle of low revenue stream we have generated has not been enough to cover payroll, let alone to meet all of the other costly expenses needed to operate and maintain a hospital,” a board statement reads.

The board blamed lawmakers’ refusal to expand Medicaid as just a partial culprit, but that’s the reasoning garnering headlines.

The Topeka Capital-Journal‘s headline reads “Oswego Community Hospital announces closure, citing failure to expand Medicaid, low patient volumes.”

EmpowerHMS, a Kansas City, Mo.-based company, operates 13 hospitals in seven states, including Medicaid expansion states. A Google search reveals broad coverage of the company’s recent financial woes. As recently as last month, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported financial challenges in rural Arkansas hospital managed by EmpowerHMS. Arkansas expanded Medicaid in 2014.

In the final paragraph of the Topeka Capital-Journal story, Cap-J readers learn that the hospital would only have received $84,000 from Medicaid expansion.

Kansas House Majority Leader Dan Hawkins says Medicaid expansion won’t save rural hospitals.

“It may help, but it’s not going to solve the problem,” he said.  “Utilization of hospitals has fundamentally changed,” Hawkins said. “When my mom had me, she was in the hospital for four or five days. Now she would’ve been in the hospital for a day.”

He noted that most hospital stays are planned, so people in rural areas often travel to urban hospitals for things like hip replacement and heart surgeries. Many critical access hospitals have 25-beds, Hawkins said.

“They’re luck to have two or three bed nights per week. You can’t keep a 25-bed hospital staffed when you don’t have people in beds,” he said. “Rural hospitals are going to close because that model doesn’t work in small communities anymore. It just doesn’t. Rural healthcare is going to become more like super clinics with small ERs and a few beds incase someone needs to spend the night.”

The Oswego Rural Hospital housed 12 beds and employed 65 people.

The CEO of Oswego Community Hospital has not responded to an email and a phone number for the hospital is a dead end.

[image from Google Maps]

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