Insurance commissioner issues emergency rule to expand hospital bed capacity during COVID-19 surge
Published 10:30 am Thursday, August 12, 2021
Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon issued an emergency rule to increase Louisiana’s hospital bed capacity at 24-hour acute care hospitals during the coronavirus surge by facilitating insurance coverage of care provided in step-down facilities such as small rural hospitals.
Emergency Rule 46 requires health insurance providers to provide coverage for patients who are transferred from major traditional hospitals to appropriate step-down facilities to open acute care beds critical to the state’s capacity to respond to COVID-19. This insurance directive essentially allows acute care hospitals to discharge convalescing patients to appropriate alternative settings, freeing hospital beds to accept new patients with immediate care needs.
“We need to make sure our hospitals can deliver the care they need at this critical time,” Donelon said. “This insurance rule should help make additional space available.”
Emergency Rule 46 echoes Emergency Rule 41, which was issued in spring 2020 as hospitals were also in danger of being overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases, but the situation today is much worse. The rate of people being hospitalized for COVID-19 treatment in recent weeks has exceeded the hospitalization rate at any previous time during the pandemic. Over the past month, the number of people admitted to hospitals for treatment of the coronavirus has increased to 2,350 from 319. Currently six out of the Louisiana Department of Health’s nine regions have more than 85 percent of their intensive care unit beds full, and an additional two are over 80-percent capacity.
Normally, hospital transfers require prior authorization from insurance. Emergency Rule 46 ensures that patient transfers can occur smoothly and without disrupting facility reimbursement. Patients who are transferred will pay the same cost-sharing amount that they would have paid in an acute care hospital.