Tester scores victory for Montana’s rural hospitals

Senator’s effort to increase assistance for small hospitals gains steam in the Senate

(GREAT FALLS, Mont.) – Thanks to Senator Jon Tester, Montana’s rural hospitals are one step closer to receiving assistance to continue delivering high-quality health care to rural Montanans.

Tester, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, worked with his Senate colleagues to include a provision in an upcoming funding bill that helps Critical Access Hospitals become eligible for loans to expand and renovate medical facilities.  Only medical facilities that mainly provide acute care, such as emergency visits, are currently eligible. 

Montana’s Critical Access Hospitals provide emergency care, but they more frequently provide chronic or long-term patient care.

Critical Access Hospitals, often the largest employers in rural communities, are hospitals with 25 beds or less located in rural and frontier areas.

A previous exemption that allowed all Critical Access Hospitals to be eligible for the loans expired in July 2011.  Ten hospitals nationwide received loans before the exemption expired, including Stillwater Community Hospital in Columbus. 

“I want to thank Senator Tester for his hard work on behalf of rural Montanans,” said Tim Russell, Stillwater Community Hospital’s Administrator.  “Extending this exemption will allow rural hospitals to access much-needed and hard-to-acquire capital to provide quality health care in their communities.  This is vital for improving access to care and the quality of life across rural Montana.”

Tester, who introduced legislation last year extending the exemption, said supporting Critical Access Hospitals improves Montanans’ quality of life—saving lives and supporting local frontier economies with good paying jobs.
“Montanans deserve reliable access to care and this assistance gives rural communities the tools they need to keep Montana families healthy,” Tester said.  “Montana’s rural hospitals are often the only place for rural Montanans to turn for care and it’s my job to stand up for them.”

The loans are provided by the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Hospital Mortgage Insurance Program.  For more information, click HERE.

Tester recently cosponsored the bipartisan Mobile Mammography Promotion Act to allow mobile mammography vehicles to buy fuel without paying the federal gas tax, helping health care providers screen more women for breast cancer in rural areas.