Gov. Bill Lee says health cost reforms needed to aid struggling rural Tennessee hospitals

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee speaks during the Tennessee Valley Corridor Summit on the campus of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga on Thursday, May 30, 2019, in Chattanooga, Tenn. Gov. Lee gave the keynote address to the summit.

Ten rural hospitals have closed in recent years in Tennessee and at least 15 more hospitals have lost money for three consecutive years, including the only hospital in Fentress County which appears to be at risk of soon closing.

The Centers of Medicaid and Medicare Services announced this week that Jamestown Regional Medical Center, an 85-bed facility that is the only hospital in Fentress County, will be terminated from government reimbursement programs on June 12 after the hospital recently failed to pay its employees or vendors. Portions of the hospital lost power last month because a $33,000 electricity bill had not been paid.

Lenda Sherrell, state director of the Southern Christian Coalition, said Thursday the expected closing of the Jamestown Medical Center "will be a moral failure at the hands of those in power" for not expanding Medicaid eligibility or working to secure more funds available under the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.