The underlying spending bill was approved Thursday by the Senate Appropriations Committee.
“This is an important low-cost, high-impact resource that helps lower the costs for rural hospitals working to upgrade their facilities and provide better care,” Kohl said in a news release .
The change would restore access to the program through July 31, 2016, for 1,329 rural hospitals after it lapsed in July 2011. Without the program, Kohl said, many rural hospitals face higher financing costs on construction and renovation loans.
Supporters of the change said the program's restriction, which aimed to bar nursing homes and other nonacute providers from participating, should not apply to critical-access hospitals because their status as the only health facility in many rural areas requires them to provide nonacute, long-term-care services.
The language added to the spending bill accomplishes the same purpose as the bipartisan Rural Health Care Capital Access Reauthorization Act of 2011, which was introduced by Kohl last year but failed to advance. At the time that bill was introduced, 10 rural hospitals in 10 states had received mortgage insurance through the program for more than $241 million in loans, according to a Kohl staffer.
The cost of extending hospitals' access to the program through 2016 was not estimated by the Congressional Budget Office, but the Obama administration's Office of Management and Budget said the provision would have no costs, according to a Kohl official.
Renewal of the exemption is strongly supported by the National Rural Health Association, according to a spokesman, who said 16 critical-access hospitals received funding through the acute-care exemption before it expired.