2011-06-11 / News

Governor Snyder Signs Health Care Bill on Mackinac Island

By Matt Mikus


At left: Governor Rick Snyder (seated) signs House Bill 4441, sponsored by Representative Frank Foster (standing left), which allows Medicare patients more options to choose where they receive long-term treatment. The governor signed the legislation in front of Mackinac Island Medical Center Friday, June 3. Also pictured are (from left): Annegret Goehring, Ron Mitchell, Bonnie Culfa (hidden), Cathy Abramson, James Flickma, Senator Jim Marleau, Victor Callewaert, Representative Gail Haines, Sue Tetzlaff, Margaret Doud, and Rod Nelson. At left: Governor Rick Snyder (seated) signs House Bill 4441, sponsored by Representative Frank Foster (standing left), which allows Medicare patients more options to choose where they receive long-term treatment. The governor signed the legislation in front of Mackinac Island Medical Center Friday, June 3. Also pictured are (from left): Annegret Goehring, Ron Mitchell, Bonnie Culfa (hidden), Cathy Abramson, James Flickma, Senator Jim Marleau, Victor Callewaert, Representative Gail Haines, Sue Tetzlaff, Margaret Doud, and Rod Nelson. New state legislation that will allow medical patients to convalesce at Mackinac Straits Health System in St. Ignace will mean millions of dollars in revenue for the new facility, at a time when its restricted cash flow has caused layoffs and other cutbacks. The new law will also be convenient for local residents, who have been forced to recover at nursing homes more than 50 miles away.

The legislation, which allows patients in rural areas to choose where to receive medical care during rehabilitation, was signed by Governor Rick Snyder last week and Mackinac Straits CEO Rod Nelson said patients could begin filling hospital rooms soon, even thought the law doesn’t actually take effect for 180 days.

He credited Representative Frank Foster for introducing House Bill 4441 and changing the former state law that required such care be given in a nursing home, if a bed were available within 50 miles. Michigan has been the only state in the nation to restrict such care, which is reimbursable under Medicare.

“This was a case where the state of Michigan was going beyond federal law and impinging on things that created problems,” Gov. Snyder said Friday, June 3, when he signed the legislation in front of the Mackinac Island Medical Center. “We don’t need to do that. We can do this in a thoughtful way to allow communities and hospitals to be more flexible and more successful.”

Under the current federal law, small hospitals with fewer than 100 beds may designate up to 10 beds as “swing beds,” which can be used for either acute or longterm care. Only 33 hospitals in the state are allowed to use swing beds. A swing bed allows a Medicare patient to stay at a rural hospital after acute care, even if all long-term care beds are full.

The old law required that a hospital transfer a patient to a nursing home within five days of being placed in the care of a swing bed, regardless of the patient’s wishes. Now the patient can choose where to go.

“For the 33 hospitals around the state,” Rep. Foster said, “this is important for their community. Not only is this going to provide the best patient care, but also there’s a job creation aspect. The more access to need these hospitals have, the more jobs they can provide, and in Northern Michigan it doesn’t take a lot of jobs to impact that community.”

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