A bill has been introduced in the U.S. Senate that would permanently extend Medicare financing programs, which help support hospitals in rural areas like Northwest Colorado. Colorado Senator Michael Bennet joined a bi-partisan group which introduced the bill last week. The Rural Hospital Access Act of 2017, would extend the Medicare Dependent Hospital and Low Volume Hospital programs in perpetuity. The Medicare Dependent Hospital program helps hospitals primarily serving Medicaid enrollees maintain financial sustainability, while the Low Volume Hospital program assists hospitals that treat a low number of patients and would otherwise struggle with high costs. These programs help rural hospitals in structuring their funding streams so they can stay open despite regional challenges. In addition to the assistance provided to hospitals, these programs also benefit local economies, as hospitals are often major employers in rural communities. According to Bennet, Colorado’s rural hospitals are a vital part of our communities, and it’s essential to do what’s possible to help them overcome the financial challenges they face.