Health insurance providers may how provide coverage for patients who are transferred from hospitals to other facilities because of bed shortages caused by the fourth wave of COVID-19 cases.

That's according to a new emergency rule issued by insurance commissioner Jim Donelon on Thursday.

According to Donelon's office, the new rule allows acute care hospitals to discharge patients to alternative settings, such as small rural hospitals. This, in turn, will free beds in traditional hospitals, allowing those facilities to accept more COVID patients.

“We need to make sure our hospitals can deliver the care they need at this critical time,” Donelon said in a press release. “This insurance rule should help make additional space available.”

This ruling comes as the number of COVID-related hospitalizations in Louisiana skyrockets. As of Wednesday, 2,895 Louisiana residents are in hospitals battling the coronavirus. That's more than nine times higher than the number of COVID hospitalizations at the start of July. According to Donelon's office, six of the Louisiana Department of Health's nine regions have more than 85 percent of their intensive care unit beds full. Another two regions are above 80 percent ICU capacity.

Lafayette's hospitals are nearing capacity because of the recent influx of COVID patients. Ochsner Lafayette General is pleading with Acadiana residents to get vaccinated. Officials there say it's a surefire way to lower the hospitalization rate now and in the future.

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