SueDee Horton explains what the swing bed rehab program is and its benefits.

PERRY COUNTY — SueDee Horton came and spoke at an event for the Perry County Council on Aging Friday, sharing information about the hospital’s swing bed program.

A swing bed program is used in rural areas for patients who need post-acute care but no longer need to stay in the hospital.

A patient would go into Perry County Memorial Hospital to be evaluated to see if they qualify for the program and if their insurance will approve it.

Traditional Medicare covers it for up to 20 days, as long as the candidate is participating and showing progress. The Advantage plans are what Horton called, “a distant beast.” The Advantage plan will only cover three days at a time. She stated that there are pros and cons to each plan but in this case, the traditional plan is going to be better. The hospital will get approval before they start the program so the patient isn’t going to get a surprise from a large bill regardless of which insurance is being used.

According to the rural health website, the Swing Bed program became necessary in rural areas during the 1970s when experts observed that the wrong number of beds had been dedicated to the wrong level of care.

Rural hospital beds were empty because of referrals that were being made to urban hospitals for acute tertiary care treatment. Nursing home beds that were being used for post-acute care had disappeared thanks to regulatory issues.

The swing bed allows rural hospitals to provide more efficient care and to help them be able to keep serving their communities. A swing bed isn’t a physical change in beds as much as it is a reimbursement status. The payment model allows that a bed can be used interchangeably as acute care services or post-acute care services. The swing is from billing for acute care services to post-acute care services from a skilled nursing facility.

Horton stated that this program is beneficial if a patient is not sick enough to stay in an urban hospital but is too sick to go home. This allows the patient to remain in the rural hospital for care. Keeping post care local is beneficial for the patients and the community.

The swing bed still has the same three-day qualifying requirement as a nursing home but the allowance of staying in the hospital provides access to services that would not be available in a nursing home.

“It is important to have care locally and have that time to really engage with nurses and therapist that are providing the care,” said Horton.

Rural America can provide quality care because of the swing bed. It allows for care in the patient’s home community. It is also better for the transition back to home. PCMH can provide more information for anyone in the county who may need the services.