For companies collecting on healthcare debt, the geography of that debt is becoming more and more important in determining how likely someone is going to be at repaying it, according to published reports.
A huge gap is developing between rural and urban healthcare in the United States, especially among hospitals. More than 100 rural hospitals have closed this decade and 20% of all those that are still open are at risk of closing. And, even though 20% of the population of the United States lives in a rural area, as defined by the U.S. Census, only 11% of doctors practice in those areas. Making the situation even worse is that only 5% of incoming medical students are from rural areas — medical students who come from rural areas tend to practice in rural areas once they become doctors.
“Ultimately, market forces in rural healthcare are really challenging,” said Claire O’Hanlon, an advanced fellow in the Veterans Affairs Center for the Study of Healthcare Innovation, in a published report. “When you’re running a hospital, whether nonprofit or for-profit, the margins have to work.”
Individuals living in rural areas tend to be more likely to not have health insurance or be covered by Medicaid or Medicare, according to the report, which means rural hospitals have to devote more of their funds to uncompensated or charity care, or have higher amounts of unpaid debts that need to be collected.
And, at the end of the day, individuals living in rural areas have a higher mortality rate than those living in urban areas. Individuals living in rural areas have a 23% higher mortality rate than those living in urban areas, according to the report.