As rural hospitals fail, Ga. considers downsizing

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By AP

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Updated: Sat, 17 May 2014 01:15:13 EST

MONTEZUMA, Ga. (AP) — As rural hospitals struggle financially, Georgia may let them downsize into expanded emergency rooms.

Alarmed by hospital closures, health officials in Georgia are changing rules to let stressed rural hospitals become expanded emergency rooms that can also handle routine childbirths or outpatient surgery.

Analysts say that rural hospitals are struggling nationally because they typically serve small populations of customers more likely to be older, uninsured or enrolled in government health care programs that do not fully pay their bills. The situation is worse in states like Georgia that are not allowing the poorest of the uninsured to enroll in Medicaid.

State officials say limited services offered by a rural emergency room are better than nothing. Hospital executives question whether the rural emergency rooms will prove viable.

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