“This hospital all my life has been here,” said Keller, now retired. “[It] helps a lot of people who don’t have adequate health care coverage—and I don’t know what they would do without it.” Aside from providing healthcare to a largely poor population, it provides hundreds of jobs in a town that locals say never recovered after industries such as coal mining and glass manufacturing disappeared.
But in the wake of this fall’s presidential election, Highlands—like many other rural hospitals—will likely face new financial challenges that will intensify longstanding struggles, experts say. The Affordable Care Act, which President-elect Donald Trump has vowed to repeal, threw a number of life-savers to these vital but financially troubled centers. And its full repeal, without a comparable and viable replacement, could signal their death knell.
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