I think all of us have experienced a time in which we watched a dramatic activity or made a difficult decision and quickly reflected that the event may have changed our lives in dramatic ways for many years to come. Last week those of us in health care had one of those moments. With the passing of Senate Bill 17-267 on the last day of the Colorado General Assembly and the expected reclassification of the provider fee, we all collectively breathed a sigh of relief. All three of the San Luis Valley hospitals would have experienced severe reduction in funding which could have resulted in service cuts, laying off of staff and potential closures if the provider fee supplementation would have been reduced by $528 million in the state budget cuts.
The losses for the San Luis Valley hospitals would have been easily in the millions as soon as this October.
As always the San Luis Valley showed its grit and determination as many businesses and community members began a letter campaign, describing support of enterprising the provider fee, and many visited with lawmakers either by phone or in person at the capitol.
I want to publicly thank District 35 Senator Larry Crowder who has been advocating for this change for several years and continues to support rural healthcare year after year. Also thanks to District 62 Representative Valdez who also supported the bill. Colorado Hospital Association continued to represent all of us in advocating for the passing of the bill throughout this past year.
A big thank-you goes to Konnie Martin, CEO of San Luis Valley Health. Konnie made many trips to Denver to advocate for rural health and to describe the devastation that would occur without the passing of the bill. I will never forget her passionate “call to action” as she spoke to lawmakers, stating that our choice of where we live should not determine if we live.
I have no doubt that her time and energy and courage to speak out for all hospitals and especially for rural hospitals during the last two weeks of the general session helped frame one of those events that we all know will help to secure the future of Colorado rural healthcare.
Arlene Harms, CEO, Rio Grande Hospital