PENNINGTON GAP — Wellmont Health System’s move to close Lee Regional Medical Center in Southwest Virginia isn’t an isolated decision — and may be a sign of things to come.
Earlier this year, Wellmont and hospital associations in both Tennessee and Virginia warned rural facilities could close and services might be on the chopping block if lawmakers in those states didn’t expand their Medicaid programs under Obamacare, also known as the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
Wellmont blamed LRMC’s closing on major cuts in Medicare reimbursements by the federal government associated with ACA and a lack of Medicaid expansion by the commonwealth of Virginia. Also cited were the community’s low use of the facility and independent physicians not committed to provide around-the-clock staffing at LRMC.
“Two hospitals in West Tennessee, part of the West Tennessee Healthcare System, are also closing much around the issues that Lee (Regional Medical Center) is facing,” Tennessee Hospital Association President Craig Becker said in an email when asked for his reaction to Wellmont’s decision. “We had a single stand alone (Tennessee) hospital in Scott County closed this year, but the county is trying to re-open it.”
U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., said at a Friday civic club luncheon that a Nashville source had told him 400 to 500 rural hospitals around the nation may close over the next few years due to health care reform.Read more of this story in Sunday's print edition of the Times-News or the expanded electronic edition.