Emergency Hospital

Graber behind bill to create Rural Emergency Hospital

Bill could be catalyst for trauma services in Keokuk


LEE COUNTY - A bill being sponsored and ushered through the Iowa House of Representatives by Fort Madison's Martin Graber could create a pathway to an emergency medical facility in Keokuk.

The real pressing question is who steps up to run the facility.

Blessing Health System, who shuttered the Keokuk Hospital and Emergency Room in October, is the best option according to Rep. Graber (R-Fort Madison), but he said there's been no indication that will happen.

Graber introduced House Study File 13 at the beginning of the session and said it may take a back seat to school choice and property tax priorities, but it is on the House priority agenda.

"It makes sense for that to be Blessing," Graber said Monday.

"But I haven't had conversations with Blessing. I have a feeling this is going to have to be a joint effort of (Keokuk), the state, and even the county."

Graber said he hopes the legislation, which he said should be very bipartisan, will move through to Governor's desk very quickly.

"In a couple weeks I could hold a legislation that gets approved. Sen. (Jeff) Reichman is working it on the senate side and I've had conversations with the governor. She's aware of the bill, but I just don't want her to lose sight of it," Graber said.

The bill will increase Medicare and Medicaid payments to those facilities by 5%. It would also generate a quicker reimbursement payment.

The bill is centered around changing Iowa code to allow for licensure of Rural Emergency Hospitals that are essentially triage centers where emergent care can be rendered, with minimal observation times of about 24 hours before a patient is transferred to licensed in-patient hospitals.

Graber said there's language that requires a certificate of need, but if the community looking to add the emergency facility has had a hospital in it recently, such as the Blessing Keokuk Hospital, that certificate can be waived by the same company.

"If Blessing wanted to come back in and restart that emergency facility they wouldn't need to show that certficate of need."

Graber said his research indicates there are many hospitals in Iowa that aren't financially secure and this bill could help more than just Lee County.

"I was told there were at least 10 hospitals that have a similar problem financially. Like everything else, until someone digs in and gets some facts, you don't know. There are 33 hospitals in the state that are financially insecure," he said.

He said the county is doing everything it can to assist the people of Keokuk in emergency situations. But it's not ideal.

"I appreciate what the county is doing with the ambulance service. That's spot on for what we're dealing with, but ideally the Emergency Hospital would be the difference maker," he said.

The House bill will be run through committees this week, and Graber hopes it hits the floor before the end of the week.

"School choice and property tax will get in first, but the House has about 13 priorities this year, and this is one of them," he said.

Graber said he still isn't sure if the bill is signed into law it will be a profitable venture for hospitals, but it will make things easier for them.

"Its the extra 5% and you get paid quicker," he said. "But if I'm in the health care business, I'm doing things for more reasons than to just make a buck."

Graber said this could be the model that other emergency hospitals follow, saying whoever comes in to Keokuk to open the facility would be looked as a "white knight".

"This could be the model for any other ones that get done in Iowa. Whoever would come in here, would be a hero.  They saved the day."

The only hurdles could be if another legislator tried to add an amendment onto the bill, Graber said.

"I think it will go through clean and clear. I expect it to be very bipartisan and I don't know why anyone would vote against this for what it delivers."

The federal version of the bill was introduced by Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, so current Iowa House Speaker Pat Grassley, the elder Grassley's grandson, is familiar with the bill.

Martin Graber, rural emergency hospital, Pen City Current, news, legislation, Blessing hospital, House of Representatives, Iowa, Legislature, lawmakers


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