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Get the latest coverage of the 2024 Florida legislative session in Tallahassee from our coverage partners and WUSF.

House and Senate committees OK bills to create 'rural emergency hospitals'

 Sen. Corey Simon, R-Tallahassee.
Colin Hackley
/
News Service of Florida
The Senate version of the bill sponsored by Sen. Corey Simon, R-Tallahassee, was passed by the Health and Human Services Committee on Thursday. It needs to clear one more committee before it could go to the chamber floor.

Under the measures, facilities designated as rural emergency hospitals could provide emergency services, observation care and outpatient services that do not exceed an average length of stay of 24 hours.

With supporters pointing to a need to ensure health care access in rural areas, House and Senate committees Thursday moved forward with bills that would create a new category of “rural emergency hospitals” in the state.

The House Health & Human Services Committee approved the House version of the bill (HB 309), sponsored by Rep. Jason Shoaf, R-Port St. Joe, with the measure now positioned to go to the full House.

The Senate Health and Human Services Committee approved a similar Senate bill (SB 644), sponsored by Sen. Corey Simon, R-Tallahassee.

Shoaf and Simon represent sprawling rural districts in North Florida.

A federal law, signed in December 2020, allowed the creation of rural emergency hospitals and made them eligible for Medicare payments.

Under the Florida bills, facilities designated rural emergency hospitals could provide emergency services, observation care and outpatient services that do not exceed an average length of stay of 24 hours. But they would be exempted from requirements about providing inpatient care and such things as surgical care.

A Senate staff analysis said Florida has 22 rural hospitals and that rural hospitals in DeFuniak Springs, Williston and Lake City have closed since 2010. Also, it said 15 states have approved designations of rural emergency hospitals.

Simon’s bill needs to clear one more committee before it could go to the full Senate.

Copyright 2024 Health News Florida

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