Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley calls the continued closures of rural hospitals “a tragedy” and he hopes to introduce legislation today that aims to preserve those institutions that remain. Grassley, a Republican, says Medicare requires hospitals to maintain a certain number of inpatient beds, which he says is too restrictive and the rules are forcing many smaller facilities to permanently close their doors.
“My bill would create a new rural emergency hospital designation. This hospital would have an emergency room and outpatient services,” Grassley says. “It would not have to have inpatient beds that many hospitals are struggling to maintain.”
The legislation would fill the need, he says, to keep more rural hospitals in business. “Studies show that proximity to an emergency room often means the difference between life and death,” Grassley says. “A tractor accident or a heart attack is dangerous under the best circumstances but it’s a lot more dangerous for someone who is far away from an emergency room.”
The bill wouldn’t force any new requirements on hospitals, Grassley says, it would just offer them new options. He says there would have to be some protocols in place however, like being able to rapidly move a patient to a larger hospital elsewhere which offers more services.
“Sixty percent of trauma deaths in our country occur in rural areas where only 15% of the population lives,” Grassley says. In addition to this measure, Grassley plans to offer four more health care-related bills on Wednesday, measures covering issues like: physical therapy in Medicare, financial trusts for people with disabilities, community-based independence for seniors on Medicare, and quality care for mothers and children on Medicaid.