Objective: To determine whether rural Medicare FFS beneficiaries are more likely to be admitted to an urban hospital in 2018 than in 2010.
Data sources: We combined data from the 2010 to 2018 Hospital Service Area File (HSAF) and the 2010-2017 American Hospital Association (AHA) survey.
Study design: We conducted a fixed-effects negative-binomial regression to determine whether urban hospital admissions from rural ZIP codes were increasing over time. We also conducted an exploratory geographically weighted regression.
Data collection: We transformed the HSAF data into a ZIP code-level file with all rural ZIP codes. We defined rural as having a Rural-Urban Commuting Area (RUCA) code ≥4. A hospital's system affiliation status was incorporated from the AHA survey.
Principal findings: Controlling for distance to the nearest hospitals, an increase of 1 year was associated with a 2.0% increase (p < 0.001) in the number of admissions to urban hospitals from each rural ZIP code. New system affiliation of the nearest rural hospital was associated with an increase of 1.7% (p < 0.001).
Conclusions: Even when controlling for distance to the nearest rural hospital (which reflects hospital closures), rural patients were increasingly likely to be admitted to an urban hospital.
Keywords: Medicare; geographic/spatial factors/small area variations; health care organizations and systems; hospitals; rural health.
© 2022 Health Research and Educational Trust.