Hospitals in Nebraska are facing immense inflationary pressures since the Covid-19 pandemic. Due to rising costs and staff shortages, over 55% of hospitals nationally are operating in the red.

Overall expenses are 20% higher compared to 2019 according to the Nebraska Hospital Association, which represents interests of hospitals around the state of Nebraska.

NHA President Jeremy Nordquist said hospitals feel handcuffed with rising prices, due to their inability to significantly increase dollars coming in.

"The challenge with hospitals is most of our revenue is fixed," Nordquist said. "Depending on the hospital, 60 to 80% of the money that comes through the door is Medicaid and Medicare."

CEO of Pender Community Hospital Laura Gamble said the problem is compounded by recent levels of inflation.

"We're getting paid less for the care that we give," Gamble said. "You look at the rate of inflation and what we're getting paid back from these payers, it doesn't come together."

CFO of Columbus Community Hospital Chad Van Cleave said he feels the government isn’t paying their fair share of the reimbursement and would like to see more going back into the system for front line workers in Nebraska hospitals.

"Will the federal and state government step forward, recognize, and reimburse those front line care providers?" Van Cleave said.

The NHA plans to introduce several bills in front of the legislature to help reduce the stress level of hospitals across the state. Many are aimed at fixing another long-term concern: adequate staffing.

"We have a couple packages before the legislature this year to try and jump-start the pipeline of nursing in our state," Nordquist said. "We can get folks into our community colleges, go through a two-year program, they're a registered nurse at the end of that program."

Through the Covid-19 pandemic occurred a mass exodus away from nursing, with health care administrations saying many workers were concerned for their own health and family’s well-being.

Now, health care leaders turn to create more ways for nursing to appeal toward young people.

"The challenge for Nebraska is the lack of people getting into our career field," Van Cleave said. "That's what I feel the future of health care will hang upon."

If the ongoing pressure continues, the NHA said many rural hospitals could be forced to cut programs. Pender Community Hospital rural clinic director Lori Minert said a nearby hospital that isn’t equipped to deal with a variety of issues could have major consequences.

"People would not get the care," Minert said. "We would see the mortality rate go up, I think they would wait longer to get to a provider."

The NHA now looks forward to appearing in the state capitol addressing these issues from a legislative level.

"It has to be policymakers prioritizing rural health care if we're going to be able to keep and sustain the services that we have," Nordquist said.

For more information about the Nebraska Hospital Association, click here