LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The University of Louisville’s request for $35 million in state money to ease its takeover of the KentuckyOne Health system took a step forward Wednesday when the Kentucky House voted 86-7 to approve the deal.
In November, U of L Health absorbed Jewish Hospital and other KentuckyOne Health hospitals, outpatient centers and a physician group to keep Jewish from closing and preserve its medical school programs housed there, including adult organ transplants.
The $35 million – at least half of which would have to be repaid to the state in 20 years – is meant to provide short-term cash as U of L Health executes a three-year plan to make the KentuckyOne properties break even or turn a small profit.
U of L would get the money by April 1, according the latest version of the bill approved by the House. The state would also borrow the $35 million instead of taking it from available cash, a change Gov. Andy Beshear suggested in his proposed budget.
The bill now moves to the Senate.
While Senate President Robert Stivers last year affirmed his support for the appropriation, some lawmakers say it’s unfair for the state to support an urban hospital when rural hospitals are struggling.
“We’ve got facilities closing across the state and the attitude seems to be, ‘Let them drive to the next city, the big city. They can get healthcare there,’” Sen. Stephen Meredith, R-Leitchfield, said on the Senate floor Wednesday.
Leitchfield also questioned the “economic development” rationale for the U of L support, saying the roughly 2,000 jobs at Jewish Hospital would not be permanently lost if the hospital were to close.
“Most of those jobs are going to be absorbed within the metropolitan Louisville area, if that happens … (The loan) is not going to create new jobs; if it does, it’s going be very minimal,” he said.