Rural hospital bill that would benefit YVMC moves through Senate | SteamboatToday.com

Rural hospital bill that would benefit YVMC moves through Senate

A bill that would extend a Medicare reimbursement program benefitting rural hospitals

— A bill introduced by democratic Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet and others earlier this year to extend a program helping rural hospitals, including Yampa Valley Medical Center, has passed the Senate Finance Committee.

Senate Bill 607 would extend the Rural Community Hospital Demonstration Program, which reimburses Medicare inpatient services on a cost-based system, rather than typical pre-determined Medicare rates.

YVMC has participated in the program since 2011, and officials said in March that the program helps hospitals with too many licensed beds to be a critical access hospital, a designation with its own financial benefits, but still few enough beds to qualify for the demonstration program.

YVMC CFO Robert Flake said extending the program would provide stability for the hospital by providing a stable, predictable reimbursement level as opposed to uncertain Medicare payments in the future.

"Colorado's rural communities, like Delta County, Steamboat Springs and Sterling, face unique challenges to ensuring access to critical health care services," Bennet said, in a release. "This bill extends a lifeline to help rural hospitals continue to offer 24-hour emergency and inpatient care."

The bi-partisan bill was co-sponsored by Bennet along with Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kansas), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).

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The legislation reflects the realities of providing important medical care in rural areas, according to Moran.

Initiated in 2004 to serve 13 hospitals in eight of the most sparsely populated states, the program now serves 23 hospitals in the 20 most sparsely populated states.

The bill was unanimously passed by the Senate Finance Committee June 24 and now moves to the full Senate for its consideration.

More information on the bill and the bill's full text is available on its Congress page.

To reach Teresa Ristow, call 970-871-4206, email tristow@SteamboatToday.com or follow her on Twitter @TeresaRistow