Joining hospital administrators, staffers and other stakeholders, three out of the four members of the bipartisan team that shepherded the crucial Hospital Provider Fee (HPF) bill through the legislature and to the Governor's desk celebrated its passage at Lincoln Community Hospital in Hugo recently.

Joining hospital administrators, staffers and other stakeholders, three out of the four members of the bipartisan team that shepherded the crucial Hospital Provider Fee (HPF) bill through the legislature and to the Governor’s desk celebrated its passage at Lincoln Community Hospital in Hugo recently.

Senate Bill 17-267, also known as the “Sustainability of Rural Colorado Act,” was the most talked-about bill of the 2017 legislative session. With this year’s tough budget, the Joint Budget Committee concluded more than $500 million in cuts to hospitals had to be made in order to pass a balanced budget. To prevent these cuts, legislative action to move the HPF into an enterprise fund was required.

Similar action had been attempted in the prior two sessions, with the HPF bills dying in committee on party-line votes by Republican state senators. This year however, Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman, D-Denver, Senate President Pro Tem Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, House Majority Leader K.C. Becker, D-Boulder, and State Representative Jon Becker, R-Fort Morgan, came together to work on a compromise bill that would not only move the HPF into an enterprise fund, but would also provide some funding for education and transportation in rural Colorado.

Had the bill not passed, hospitals across the state would have faced millions of dollars in serious cuts that would have likely led to the cutting of services and the loss of jobs. While hospitals in the urban areas would likely have survived, these cuts would have been catastrophic for hospitals in rural areas, like Lincoln Community Hospital in Hugo.

“For rural communities like Hugo, the local hospital is not only the largest employer in the area and its greatest economic driver, but it is the only place for miles people can get emergency medical care. Had we in the General Assembly not come together to get this bill passed and signed into law, jobs would have been lost, services would have been cut, and hospitals may very well have closed. Without this bill, it would have been catastrophic for these hardworking communities. With this bill however, we have protected hospitals from deep cuts, and also provided some funding opportunities for schools and transportation in the rural areas as well,” Senator Guzman said.

Ultimately, the bill passed with bipartisan support, on a vote of 25-10 in the Senate and 49-16 in the House. It was signed into law by the governor on May 30, 2017.

At the recent celebration, Lincoln Community Hospital CEO Kevin Stansbury, the Colorado Hospital Association’s Steven Summer and Aly Schmidt thanked the sponsors of SB267 for rising above party politics and working across the aisle to make the bill happen.

“This was one of the most important bills I have ever worked on, and it is so uplifting and gratifying to be celebrating its signing into law with the hospitals and my colleagues here today in Hugo. Too often, rural Colorado is left behind, and this year, the General Assembly delivered on its promise to stand up for these communities. Democrats and Republicans came together to solve this problem, and it is my sincere hope that Democrats and Republicans continue to work together on critical economic issues that lie ahead for our state,” Senator Guzman concluded.