Gov. Deal signs bills focusing on needs of rural Georgia
Gov. Nathan Deal has signed two bills that arose from the work of a committee of lawmakers that held hearings across Georgia last year looking for ways to improve the state’s rural economy.
Determining that access to quality health care is critical to attracting jobs, the Georgia House of Representatives’ Rural Development Council made a series of recommendations that found their way into comprehensive legislation aimed at improving health care on a variety of fronts.
House Bill 769 calls for the creation of “micro hospitals” in rural counties, which would have to have at least two beds but no more than seven and would have to provide emergency services 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The measure also creates a grant program to help physicians willing to practice in medically underserved communities pay their insurance premiums. A state income tax credit offered in exchange for contributions to rural hospitals will be expanded from 90 percent to allow donors a full dollar-for-dollar credit.
And the bill will establish a Rural Health System Innovation Center to work with medical academics on research into health-care challenges in rural communities and provide regular updates on the status of rural health care.
The second bill, House Bill 951, creates another think tank, the Center for Rural Prosperity and Innovation, to focus on rural economic development, including leadership training. The center is to be located on a University System of Georgia campus that offers bachelor’s degrees in rural economic development.
By Dave Williams – Staff Writer, Atlanta Business Chronicle