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DeSantis signs rural hospitals bill, ensuring health-care access outside urban areas

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TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday signed a bill that will create a new category of "rural emergency hospitals."

Supporters have said the bill (SB 644), which passed unanimously during this year's legislative session, is designed to help ensure health-care access in rural areas. It stems from a federal law that allowed the designation of rural emergency hospitals and made them eligible for Medicare payments. The hospitals are required to be licensed by states, creating a need for the bill.

Under the bill, which will take effect July 1, facilities designated as rural emergency hospitals will be able to provide emergency services, observation care and outpatient services that do not exceed an average length of stay of 24 hours. They will be exempted from requirements about providing inpatient care and such things as surgical care.

The bill and its House version were sponsored by Sen. Corey Simon, R-Tallahassee, and Rep. Jason Shoaf, R-Port St. Joe, both of whom have sprawling, largely rural districts.

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