Rural hospitals fear closure if Colorado cuts funding

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HUGO, Colo. -- Located about an hour-and-a-half southeast of Denver, the town of Hugo knows it doesn't have much -- but it's proud of its hospital.

Lincoln Community Hospital has been in Hugo since 1959 and is the only hospital within a 75-mile radius.

For patients like Ted Lyons, the service is invaluable.

"It saved my life, to start with, back in 1967," Lyons recalled from his hospital bed.

While Lyons is using the hospital now for treatment -- including his battle with Parkinson's disease -- he says a 1957 car accident could have killed him if he would have had to been transported to a hospital all the way in Denver.

But the threat of closure is real -- as the state contemplates cutting funding to rural hospitals.

"We are committed to doing everything we can to stay open," said Kevin Stansbury, CEO of Lincoln Community.

Stansbury says if the state goes through with its cuts -- which are in the hundreds of million of dollars -- he estimates Lincoln could see a reduction of $300,000 in funds.

The problem? His hospital only had a profit of $150,000 in recent years.

"If you take $300,000 out of that equation we are $150,000 in the hole just using simple math," Stansbury said.

There is reason to be optimistic, however.

State lawmakers are currently working on a proposal to reclassify the state's controversial hospital provider fee in order to better fund rural hospitals.

The measure is being sponsored by Republican Jerry Sonnenberg, who represents Hugo.

Sonnenberg's sponsorship is crucial at this time as Republicans have traditionally been against changing the hospital provider fee.

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