At Rural Pennsylvania hospitals, a Tense Wait as Congress Weighs Funding Changes

"If we lose the hospital, we lose the town." - Bob Cozzi, mayor of South Renovo, Pennsylvania

Bucktail Medical Center, a critical access hospital (defined as a hospital funded at least 80% by Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements) in Renovo, Pennsylvania is the most isolated in the state; the next-nearest is in Lock Haven, a thirty-seven minute drive down the West Branch Susquehanna.

Bucktail pulled itself out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2015, and is now effectively breaking even. However, Bucktail, along with its largely Republican, Trump supporting clients, faces a new threat; the Republican health care bill in Washington. If the cuts to Medicare and Medicaid prescribed in said bill pass, Bucktail stands to lose nearly a million dollars per year in revenue, sending it back into dire straits, and a large portion of its clientele will lose coverage.

When Renovo citizens were asked their opinions of Bucktail, praise for it was immense and widespread. There was one sentiment that many had in common; this hospital saves countless lives, and is the lifeblood of the Renovo community. Bob Cozzi, South Renovo's mayor, put it most bluntly; if they lose the hospital, they lose the town.

Soldiers and Sailors Memorial, a critical access hospital in Wellsboro, Tioga County faces similar peril; the product of two mergers in two years, and bolstered by the biggest proportion of Medicaid expansion signups in the state, the hospital still can’t provide all the services that its elderly population needs. Bob Koehn, for instance, has to travel several hours to receive treatment for Type I diabetes, despite the fact that he lives less than five minutes away from a hospital. If the Medicaid/Medicare cuts go through, Soldiers and Sailors will have to lay off 24 of its staff, and will lose $800,000 per year.

Rooftops in South Renovo, Pennsylvania, as viewed from Pastor Rich Colvin and his wife Denise's porch.

Rooftops in South Renovo, Pennsylvania, as viewed from Pastor Rich Colvin and his wife Denise's porch.

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