GA governor proposes step-down licensure for struggling rural hospitals

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R) proposes a form of restricted "mini" or "step-down" hospitals to keep the state's struggling rural providers in business, the Savannah Morning News reports.

Deal, addressing lawmakers earlier this week, proposed rural hospitals downsize their services in order to remove some of their financial strain. The hospitals would have functioning emergency rooms and some other services, such as obstetrics, but not much beyond that, according to the article.

"Every Georgian deserves (to be) reasonably close to a healthcare provider should an emergency arise," Deal said. "We're taking steps to try to remedy this shortcoming. Communities should not have to go without crucial services--many of them lifesaving--simply because they fall in a rural ZIP code."

Georgia's rural hospitals are in crisis; four closed in the past two years and a total of eight shut their doors since 2000. The state's failure to expand Medicaid eligibility as part of the Affordable Care Act exacerbated the situation. Both Deal and the Legislature have said such an expansion is unlikely in the near future.

Deal's proposal would not require legislation, according to the Savannah Morning News, and the change in licensure could apply both to hospitals that are currently operating and those that have recently closed but could resume operations in a more restricted manner. Clyde Reese, director of Georgia's Department of Community Health, said his agency would promulgate rules under which such step-down facilities could operate or reopen.

Meanwhile, Reese's department recently advanced $800,000 to a hospital and nursing home in Fort Oglethorpe in order for its management to make payroll. The advances are based on revenue owed to the providers, according to the Savannah Morning News.

To learn more:
- read the Savannah Morning News article