As Congress continues to debate the future of the Affordable Care Act, East Tennesseans in rural communities are calling attention to the need for rural health services amid growing uncertainty for rural hospitals.
State Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, represents Cocke County and parts of Jefferson and Greene counties. He says many hospitals in his district are facing rising costs and falling reimbursement rates.
"Health care providers cannot afford to provide health care and pay for the providing staff that they have," said Faison.
According to UNC Chapel Hill's Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research, more than 80 hospitals have closed across the country since 2010. Nine of those were in Tennessee.
Faison said reimbursement rates for hospitals dropped after the passage of the Affordable Care Act, and suggested one way to start restoring those losses could be to incentivize more insurance companies to partner with local hospitals.
On Monday, Senate Majority Leaders Mitch McConnell said he would push for a clean repeal of the ACA after two additional Republican Senators said they would not support the Senate's current replacement bill.
McConnell said the Senate will now consider the House-passed bill, with the first order of business a repeal of Obamacare with a two-year delay.
Amid all the uncertainly about the future of the health care bill in Congress, rural residents say there's even more uncertainty about their health care in their day-to-day lives.
Scott County's only hospital is currently closed while its new parent company prepares to reopen it under a new name.
The closure has forced residents like Jeanette Smith to drive back and forth to hospitals in surrounding counties.
"I go to Jellico, so it's about an hour and 15 minute drive," Smith said.
But in an emergency, timing is of the essence, and not just for her.
"I have a handicapped daughter. If something were to happen, she has a blood clotting disease, she can have a blood clot at any moment, any time, and she could be gone before I got her to the hospital," Smith said.
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