It’s a classic better-late-than-never case.

While it won’t help Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital, a Kentucky House committee approved a bill to create a loan program to assist financially struggling rural hospitals.

The bill, sponsored by Republican Rep. Danny Bentley, went to the full House after blazing through the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee.

The bill focuses on hospitals located in counties with fewer than 50,000 people, such as Greenup County, the location of Bellefonte. OLBH is set to close by April 30.

The state economic development cabinet would administer the loan program.

Bentley told the committee more than a dozen hospitals might be on a similar path that ultimately led to OLBH’s impending demise.

While the bill doesn’t designate an allotted chunk of money to initiate the program, this is a good step for Kentucky to take. At least it’s a start.

According to Forbes, 120 rural hospitals have closed over the last 10 years — a staggering number considering there are fewer than 2,000 that fall into that category.

A study conducted by the Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research at the University of North Carolina discovered a stunning increase over the last two years. In 2019, 19 rural hospitals closed their doors.

The Southeast and Great Plains regions of the United States are most vulnerable, according to the study released by Forbes.

An interesting sidenote: Clary Estes, a journalist born and raised in central Kentucky, penned the story for Forbes.

Estes wrote that states that have adopted Medicaid expansion are less susceptible to this crisis. Luckily, Kentucky does have expanded Medicaid. Unfortunately, OLBH is still closing.

Bentley and the House committee’s actions reassure the people of the Commonwealth that they’re working to keep rural hospitals in operation.

Recommended for you