Bill would extend help for rural hospitals, including YVMC
Steamboat Springs — A bill introduced in Congress in late February would extend a program that helps rural hospitals including Yampa Valley Medical Center in Steamboat Springs.
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 been participating in the program, which benefits hospitals in the 20 most sparsely populated states, since the hospital was selected in 2011.
The 39 licensed beds at YVMC mean the hospital has too many beds to be considered a critical access hospital, which would qualify it for other help, but few enough to qualify for the program.
“The Rural Demo Program fills a gap for small rural hospitals that exceed the critical access 25-bed limit and are still fewer than 51 acute care inpatient beds,” said Robert Flake, the hospital’s chief financial officer.
Flake said extending the program would provide stability for the medical center.
“Extending the program allows YVMC to continue to provide excellent patient care at a stable, predictable reimbursement level as opposed to uncertain Medicare future payments,” Flake said.
The bi-partisan bill was introduced Feb. 27 by Democratic Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kansas), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).
“This demonstration has helped several hospitals in Colorado’s rural communities, like Delta County, Steamboat Springs, and Sterling, continue to serve their communities,” Bennet said in a news release. “This bill will help maintain access to critical health care services in these rural areas.”
Originally initiated by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in 2004, the Rural Community Hospital Demonstration program was a five-year program serving only 13 hospitals in eight of the most sparsely populated states. It was renewed for five additional years in 2010 and expanded to include a total of 20 hospitals.
The program improves patient access to healthcare and helps lower costs, Flake said.
More information about the bill, which has been referred to the Committee on Finance, should be available soon on its page as part of Congress’s website.
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