Rural Health Insights
Arkansas is a largely rural state by any measure. Over the last decade, rural areas in Arkansas have experienced dramatic out-migration, particularly of younger populations. This trend is leaving rural areas with older populations facing high health-risk burdens, low median family income, limited provider capacity, and a deteriorating acute care safety net. This page serves to provide information about the rural health landscape in our state.
ACHI Health Policy Director Craig Wilson discussed Arkansas’s rural health landscape on the Rural Health Leadership Radio podcast.
Wilson focused on the impact of Medicaid expansion in rural Arkansas and talked about the importance of a collaborative approach to rural health leadership at a time when rural hospitals are reengaging on issues that they were facing pre-pandemic.
“If we can’t improve the health of the lives in our most rural parts of the state, then we can’t do it for those in the urban parts either,” Wilson told host Dr. Bill Auxier during the episode.
Rural Hospital Closings in Southern States
This map depicts the locations of rural hospital closures — a total of 60 — between January 2012 and July 2022 in Arkansas and in neighboring states, most of which have not expanded Medicaid. It is based on data from the North Carolina Health Research Program.
Arkansas’s expansion of Medicaid in 2014 has helped it fare better than most neighboring states in avoiding the closing of rural hospitals, but the May 2019 closure of De Queen Medical Center shows that Arkansas is not immune to the financial constraints facing rural hospitals in the region.
Crittenden Regional Hospital in West Memphis closed in September 2014, but because of its proximity to Memphis it was not considered a rural hospital.
Source: North Carolina Rural Health Research Program
*Hover over the red x’s to view specific hospital information.
Fraying Fabric: State’s Rural Hospitals at Risk
Arkansas is a largely rural state by any measure. Over the last decade, rural areas in Arkansas have experienced dramatic out-migration, particularly of younger populations. This trend is leaving rural areas with older populations facing high health-risk burdens, low median family income, limited provider capacity, and a deteriorating acute care safety net.
Hospitals in Arkansas and across the nation are tackling various challenges including aging facilities, workforce recruitment difficulties, technology deficits, and new payment and service delivery models. These challenges have resulted in more than 50 rural hospital closures since 2012 in neighboring states, most of which, unlike Arkansas, have not expanded Medicaid. Despite the financial respite provided by Medicaid expansion, many hospitals in Arkansas are still vulnerable. Here’s a map of hospital closures in the region. (link) Most recently, De Queen Medical Center closed its doors after months of financial problems and Izard County Medical Center in Calico Rock filed for bankruptcy.
The information showcased above is a compilation of public data from various sources that provides a profile of Arkansas hospitals. It is intended to be used as a resource for communities and policymakers as they address health and healthcare challenges in rural areas across the state.
About the data:
Healthcare Cost Report Information System (HCRIS) was used to compile 2017 hospital financial information.
Arkansas Department of Health: Hospital Provider List, Designated Trauma Centers, Perinatal Regionalization.
Arkansas Hospitals Summer 2019 was used to compile Type, Local Tax, and Ownership information.
Craig Wilson on State of Arkansas’s Rural Hospitals
ACHI Health Policy Director Craig Wilson discusses the state of rural hospitals in Arkansas and how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected them with Jennifer Craig of the Arkansas Farm Bureau. The conversation was recorded for the bureau’s podcast, Arkansas AgCast.
ACHI Health Policy Director Craig Wilson discusses the recent closing of De Queen Medical Center and its possible significance for Arkansas in this op-ed published in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
Read the full piece on ArkansasOnline.