Bennet Visits Yampa Valley and Middle Park Medical Centers to Highlight Unique Needs of Rural Hospitals

Bennet’s Support for Both Facilities has Helped them Continue to Serve their Communities

Steamboat Springs, CO - Today, Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet visited Middle Park Medical Center in Kremmling and Yampa Valley Medical Center in Steamboat Springs to discuss the unique challenges rural hospitals are facing. Bennet has worked with both hospitals to find ways to meet those challenges and continue to operate and improve services.

Bennet met with Chief Financial Officer Robert Flake and hospital board members at Kremmling Memorial Hospital. He toured the facility and highlighted a USDA loan they secured with his support.

The Senate also recently passed Bennet's Rural Hospital Demonstration Act. The bill extends a Medicare Demonstration Program that allows Medicare to reimburse participating rural hospitals through an alternative payment model that provides stability and a continued source of funding. Yampa Valley Medical Center is one of three participating hospitals in the state. The program has helped the Medical Center keep its doors open.

"Colorado's rural hospitals are committed to serving their communities but often must overcome unique challenges to make ends meet," Bennet said. "In many cases they have less negotiating power with insurers and suppliers as well as an inability to attract and retain providers. We need to find innovate ways to bring costs down and identify resources that allow them to provide their patients with the best care."

Middle Park Medical Center (MPMC) runs the only hospital in Grand County is the only medical provider in Jackson County. In 2014, MPMC began exploring options to stabilize the clinic's financial situation. It had been operating under bond a with an extremely high interest rate and was facing possible receivership. Bennet's office helped MPMC receive a lower-interest loan through USDA Rural Development by writing a letter of support for its application. The facility received the $24 million, 3.25 percent loan in November, 2015. It has saved the medical center more than $500,000 a year, allowing MPMC to run in the black.

The Yampa Valley Medical Center is a non-profit, community care facility that serves more than 51,000 patients annually from across Northwest Colorado as well as many visitors. The center is benefitting from its participation in the Medicare Demonstration Program, which Bennet and Republican Senator Chuck Grassley are working to extend in their Rural Hospital Demonstration Act that has passed the Senate.

Initiated in 2004, the Rural Community Hospital Demonstration Program is a five-year program created to help rural hospitals in the country's 10 most sparsely populated states. The program was renewed for another five years in 2010 and expanded to include 20 of the most sparsely populated states. This program created a new Medicare reimbursement model that is based on the actual costs of treating a patient rather than the current fluctuating, negotiated system. It will test the feasibility of expanding the model to additional hospitals to drive costs down in the health care system.

There are total of 23 hospitals nationwide participating in this demonstration project, and the program has been critical to helping hospitals in sparsely populated states continue to operate. In addition to Yampa Valley Medical Center, Delta County Memorial Hospital and Sterling Regional Medical Center participate in the program. A related bill is now moving through the house of representatives.