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Legislature to Debate Rural Emergency Hospital Bill

A bill introduced in the Iowa House would set up a state licensing process for “rural emergency hospitals.” Federal rules now let small rural hospitals discontinue in-patient care and just provide an emergency room and outpatient services. Representative Martin Graber of Fort Madison says this could be a financial lifeline for more than 30 small Iowa hospitals where very few patients are being admitted for an overnight stay.

Keokuk’s hospital closed in October and Graber says a stand-alone ER would be a viable alternative in the community.

Blessing Health, based in Quincy, Illinois, closed its 49-bed Keokuk hospital September 30th due to operating losses and low demand for in-patient care. The Rural Emergency Hospital license Graber and others are working on would increase the government’s reimbursement rates for Medicare and Medicaid patients treated in an emergency room.

Once a critical patient is stabilized in a Rural Emergency Hospital’s ER, Graber says they’d be transferred to in-patient care elsewhere, while patients with less acute emergencies could be quickly treated and discharged.

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