“Don’t worry about the insurance companies,” David Pearson said. Insurance companies are going to do just fine. But rural hospitals ought to be worried about the various health care reform bills now before Congress, said the president of the Texas Organization of Rural and Community Hospitals (TORCH). “Right now, we’re barely getting by.”
Pearson was talking to a meeting of the (really good) Texas Rural Innovators Forum about health care reform. He said the small hospitals TORCH represents aren’t supporting any of the bills now being considered. (Pearson noted that none of the bills addressed access to health care, a primary concern in rural America, which has lost hundreds of hospitals over the last generation.) He did say rural hospitals have several concerns. For example, Pearson said rural hospitals aren’t funded the same way as urban hospitals. Any change in funding needs to treat rural and urban hospitals with that in mind. Rural hospitals also treat undocumented workers when they come for care. Most of the bills currently under consideration cut funding for treatment of immigrants. Immigration policy shouldn’t be resolved by a health care bill, Pearson said.
If there is a public plan, Pearson said, it needs to pay at least as much as Medicare or rural hospitals won’t be able to provide care. Finally, Pearson said that any oversight board established in new legislation ought to be required to have rural representation. “Rural is unique,” Pearson said, “and we’re worried.”