Bennet Introduces Legislation to Help Modernize, Rebuild Small and Rural Hospitals

The Hospital Revitalization Act Establishes a Grant and Loan Program to Help Hospitals Across the Country Upgrade Aging Facilities

Washington, D.C. – Today, Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet introduced the Hospital Revitalization Act to support small hospitals across the country, especially in rural America, as they work to modernize aging facilities. This legislation would establish a program, including grants and loans, that eligible hospitals could apply for to help upgrade infrastructure and expand capacity. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated an already existing strain on hospitals and the communities they serve, especially in rural areas,” said Bennet. “Now more than ever, hospitals need support. I’m grateful to have worked with rural hospitals in Colorado to write this legislation, which will help eligible facilities upgrade their infrastructure and expand capacity so that they can better serve their communities and create jobs today and into the future.”  

“Since first discussing this issue with Senator Bennet’s senior staff we have been heartened by their understanding of and appreciation for the challenges hospitals like ours face,” said Kevin Stansbury, CEO of Lincoln Health Community Hospital in Hugo, Colorado. “Creating a system where safety net hospitals,  who suffer financially due to factors beyond their control, have access to much needed capital for facility improvements, will have an outsized impact on access to care for millions of people in rural and other underserved areas.  Thank you for working with us to bring this effort one step closer to reality.”  

“This proposal represents the type of bridge assistance that has historically often helped small and rural communities meet the needs of their communities,” said Tom Rennell, Senior Vice President of Financial Policy and Data Analytics at the Colorado Hospital Association. “The delivery of rural health care is moving to outpatient and telehealth care and with this opportunity to update the outdated infrastructure needs of the hospitals and the communities they serve CHA believes care can be transformed for our smaller and isolated communities.”

In 2019, over ten million people worked at hospitals, outpatient care centers, and nursing care facilities alone. Hospitals across the country have faced challenges like aging physical facilities  and economic instability for years. Now, the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) crisis has only made these obstacles worse. The Hospital Revitalization Act would support hospital maintenance, updates, and transformation to serve the current and future needs of their communities and spur economic growth. 

To receive an award, hospitals must submit an application containing a community health needs assessment, a preliminary construction project plan, an energy resilience and efficiency plan, and an economic impact report on the area or region served. 

To be considered eligible to receive an award, a hospital must meet the following criteria based on available data for 2017 through 2019:

  • Had less than $50,000,000 in net patient revenue or fewer than 50 beds;
  • Had a negative total margin for 2 of the 3 years prior to 2020; and
  • Had a public payer mix percentage that is at least 65% of net patient revenue from the Medicare or Medicaid program for each of the 3 years prior to 2020.

Before and during the COVID-19 crisis, Bennet has worked in the Senate to support hospitals across the country, especially in rural areas where hospitals are vital to their communities. Earlier this month, Bennet joined a bipartisan letter urging HHS to follow the intent of Congress for provisions in the American Rescue Plan to support health providers, specifically $8.5 billion in funding for rural healthcare providers. In July, Bennet and U.S. Senator Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) introduced the Provider Relief Fund Deadline Extension Act, which would help ensure hospitals and providers have enough time to use their Provider Relief Funds, authorized under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, to provide their patients with exceptional care, as well as cover the costs of staff, critical projects, equipment, and other necessary expenses.

In May 2020, Bennet and U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) introduced legislation to extend the Rural Community Hospital Demonstration Program for an additional five years, ensuring these essential hospitals do not face further budget instability during such challenging times. In April 2020, Bennet joined a letter to urge the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to consider the needs of rural hospitals and providers with a higher share of Medicaid and Medicare patients as HHS distributed $100 billion in health care funding from the CARES Act. Bennet also joined members of the Colorado Congressional Delegation that month to call on the Small Business Administration to interpret the CARES Act to ensure that Critical Access Hospitals and Rural Health Clinics are eligible for certain assistance, particularly the Paycheck Protection Program.

In March 2020, Bennet and U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) introduced the Immediate Relief for Rural Facilities and Providers Act to address the crisis facing the nation’s health care system as the spread of COVID-19 strained hospitals and providers across the country. In 2017, Bennet introduced legislation to permanently extend the Medicare Dependent Hospital and Low-Volume Hospital programs that assist rural hospitals in Colorado. 

The bill text is available HERE. A one-page summary of the bill is available HERE.