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Getting to a hospital during an emergency is a race against time.

There is a 'golden hour' for heart attack or stroke victims, when immediate treatment will help prevent damage heart muscle and brain tissue. But this is almost impossible when your closest hospital is an hour or more away.

USA Today has put together an expose on the state of medical care outside large cities. Rural America faces a serious issue keeping its small hospitals open, due in part to a sudden drop in federal funding and support.

According to The Washington Post, many experts blame the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare, for the loss of 48 rural hospitals since 2010.

The ACA made cuts to Medicare, but it also reduced federal payments to hospitals for the uninsured. Budget disagreements in Congress have led to cuts in medical spending for these small, but vital, hospitals.

As a part of the ACA, the federal government assumed that states would expand their Medicaid programs. However, many did not, which in turn hurt these small hospitals.

Ronald Ott, CEO of Fitzgibbon Hospital in Marshall, MO, told KBIA about some of the issues he faces:

'It’s been kind of a double-whammy, if you will. We’ve taken a cut in reimbursement and not received any additional patients with any type of coverage'

In more than 48 areas of Texas, Georgia, and Missouri, people are not receiving the care they need:

Image Credit: USA Today
USA Today

Many people have pointed out how dire this situation really is:

USA Today notes that rural hospitals service almost half of the American population, but political gridlock has prevented consensus on a solution.