skip to Main Content
Written by: Vester Gravley on Tuesday, November 24, 2015 Posted in:

Everything’s the same

Back in my little town

My little town, my little town

Nothing but the dead and dying

Back in my little town

In truth, rural America has been in slow decline for many years and for many reasons, most of these being economically and culturally driven.  The young are fleeing the confines of the small town that first bore and then bored them while the older generation continues to settle and sink, much like the abandoned buildings decaying around them.  The streets, once full of children and the happy, bustling commotion of life, now lie still, the whispering wind the one lonely voice left seeking company.

In 2014, The Wall Street Journal reported that nearly “60% of rural counties shrank in population last year, up from 50% in 2009 and around 40% in the late 1990s.”  As a result, tax bases are diminishing and infrastructures declining. This, combined with increased healthcare regulations, deepening poverty and the preponderance of the COPD population in rural areas, has accelerated the death of many rural hospitals.  Consider that, according to recent reports, there are nearly 60 fewer compared to 2010.1 

Diane Calmus, government affairs and policy manager at the National Rural Health Association (NRHA), believes that the closings are the culmination of multiple events, as she explained to the healthcare news service, Healthcare Dive: “The rural population tends to be older, sicker and poorer than their urban counterparts and are much more reliant on Medicaid and Medicare. So cuts to those programs, along with regulatory burdens on rural hospitals, are hitting these hospitals hard.” Calmus also noted that, when rural hospitals close, communities suffer in more ways than just their health: “The impact on these communities … is huge. The average rural critical-access hospital alone creates around 195 jobs and generates about $8.4 million in payroll annually,” she told Healthcare Dive. In addition, when hospitals close, these towns lose their physicians, and new families won’t move in without a nearby emergency room. “It can really close down that town,” Calmus explained.

Insight number four: If something isn’t done that reverses the trend, rural America is fast becoming a COPD ghost town, without healthcare and without hope–only a haunting lyric heard on howling wind:

Nothing but the dead and dying

Back in my little town

Nothing but the dead and dying

Back in my little town