NORFOLK, Neb. -- Hospitals across Nebraska are struggling, especially in rural areas. According to a recent report from Chartris, 40% of Nebraska's hospitals are in danger of closure because of rising costs and shrinking communities.

"If you close a critical access hospital down in a small town, it basically kills the town,” said CEO and President of Columbus Community Hospital Mike Hansen

Hospitals across the country are facing financial struggles.

But Hansen is watching the problem unfold here in Nebraska.

“Nebraska hospitals are struggling,” Hansen said. “About 51% of our hospitals are in negative margins right now. We're one of the fortunate ones that is not in a negative margin, but our margin has tightened significantly.”

However, there is a way to receive federal funding. It's called Rural Emergency Hospitals. By cutting inpatient services, these hospitals are able to receive their funding and continue to provide emergency care.

According to Jeremy Nordquist, President of the Nebraska Hospital Association, there are several reasons why so many rural Nebraska hospitals are in the red. The struggling economy, COVID, and a 34% raise in the cost of medical services and staffing.

“So if things get worse, you're gonna probably see a lot of hospitals start to reduce some of the community benefits they provide,” Hansen said. 

There is currently an effort to manage the issue in the Nebraska State Legislature. 

LB1087 is a bill to help support the cost of Medicaid. It has one more round of voting to get through before it lands on Gov. Jim Pillen’s desk. Nordquist said Pillen has been an avid supporter of funding hospitals.

“We think this additional federal money coming in through our Medicaid program can really be a lifeline for many of our hospitals trying to maintain those critical health care services,” Nordquist said. 

According to the Chartris report, 29 hospitals across Nebraska were listed as the most vulnerable. Without moving from the critical-access system or not receiving federal funding, those hospitals may soon not be around.