- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 25, 2020

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - A bill aimed at protecting rural health care in Kentucky by creating a loan program to assist financially struggling hospitals cleared a House committee Tuesday.

Hospitals situated in counties with fewer than 50,000 people would be eligible for the loans. The state economic development cabinet would administer the loan program.

The bill sailed through the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee without any opposition. It goes to the full House. Its cosponsors include House Speaker David Osborne.

The measure was introduced following the recent announcement that Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital in northeastern Kentucky will close later this year.

Republican Rep. Danny Bentley, the bill’s lead sponsor, said more than 60 Kentucky hospitals are in counties with fewer than 50,000 people. More than a dozen are seen as “vulnerable to close,” he told the committee.



The bill doesn’t designated an amount of money to start the loan program. That would be determined by lawmakers later in the session.

Under the bill, hospitals receiving the loans could use the money on facilities, staffing or to expand medical services.

“This is something that is truly needed,” said Republican Rep. Rob Rothenburger. “This is what we’re here in Frankfort for, and that’s to help our most vulnerable population and have a healthier Kentucky.”

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The legislation is House Bill 387.

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