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Louisiana insurance commissioner issues emergency rule to expand hospital bed capacity for COVID


Clinicians work on intubating a COVID-19 patient in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Lake Charles Memorial Hospital on August 10, 2021 in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Hospitalizations for COVID-19 surpassed another record in the state yesterday to 2,720 with Louisiana as one of the nation’s epicenters while the spread of the Delta variant continues. More than ninety percent of Louisiana’s hospitalized COVID-19 patients are unvaccinated. Lake Charles Memorial currently holds 52 COVID-19 patients, 25 of whom are in the ICU. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

BATON ROUGE, La. (KLFY) — La. Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon announced Thursday that he has issued an emergency rule to increase the state’s hospital bed capacity at 24-hour acute care hospitals during the current COVID-19 surge.

Donelon said the rule facilitates insurance coverage of care provided in step-down facilities such as small rural hospitals. Donelon issued a similar rule in 2020 as hospitals approached a breaking point due to the pandemic, “but the situation today is much worse.”

The announcement comes as Louisiana records a tenth consecutive day of record-breaking hospitalizations.

Emergency Rule 46, as it is known, requires health insurance providers to issue coverage for patients who are transferred from major hospitals to appropriate step-down facilities to open acute care beds. The rule allows acute care hospitals to discharge recovering patients to appropriate alternative settings, freeing up beds to accept new patients. 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.

“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.”

Currently, six out of the Louisiana Department of Health’s nine regions have more than 85% of their intensive care unit beds full, and an additional two are over 80% capacity.

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