No Hospital For You

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Here’s a statistic that may or may not be surprising: The number of hospitals in the United States has been declining over the past six years. (No one quite knows why; presumably because hospitals are consolidating.) But a new study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation points out something even more disconcerting: the decline of public hospitals has been most rapid in major cities—some 16 percent between 1996 and 2002—especially in areas with both the highest poverty levels and highest rates of the uninsured. Meanwhile, once you start stepping away from the cities, “high-poverty suburbs appear to be relatively underserved by hospitals, compared to low-poverty suburbs, which appear to have an abundance of hospital resources.” Not good at all. Everyone harps on getting the uninsured covered; that’s an important goal to be sure, but improving access to health care should get just as much attention when thinking about health policy here in the United States.

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