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Rural hospital patient choice bill signed into law

Friday, June 3, 2011

Contact: Sara Wurfel
Office: 517-335-6397

MACKINAC ISLAND, Mich. - Gov. Rick Snyder today signed legislation giving patients in rural areas more control over where they receive medical treatment.

House Bill 4441, sponsored by state Rep. Frank Foster, gives patients the option of completing their recovery in a hospital instead of a long-term care facility.  Making this change brings Michigan in line with federal law.

"The goal is to help patients complete their recovery as soon as possible," Snyder said.  "State Rep. Frank Foster's leadership on this issue means patients in rural areas will have more options for receiving quality medical care close to home."

Under current law, small hospitals with fewer than 100 beds may designate up to 10 of those beds for either acute or long-term care.

Federal standards allow patients to remain in one of those designated beds for up to 100 days, but Michigan's law is more stringent than the federal standard and requires hospitals to transfer patients to a nursing home within five days if space at a nursing home is available. Under the current state law, patients may be transferred to a facility as far as 50 miles away from the hospital, regardless of whether the patient wants to move.

"Our hospitals here in northern Michigan offer an essential service to our residents and I am honored to play a small role to help make that service even more patient and family friendly," said Foster, R-Pellston. "This legislation will enhance patient choice and protect the sanctity of the doctor-patient relationship."

Thirty-one rural and small hospitals in Michigan will be affected by the change.  Because the program is a federal program, costs are covered by Medicare and will not result in additional expense to the state.  The legislation is the freshman lawmaker's first bill signed into law. 

Foster represents Mackinac and Chippewa counties in the eastern Upper Peninsula, as well as Emmet County and a portion of Cheboygan County in the northern Lower Peninsula. 

H.B. 4441 is now Public Act 51 of 2011.