WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) held a news conference call to announce a plan that would end an arbitrary Medicare policy causing seniors to be unknowingly hit with large, unfair costs after receiving necessary post-acute medical care. Under current Medicare policy, a beneficiary must have an “inpatient” hospital stay of at least three days in order for Medicare to cover post-hospitalization skilled nursing care. Patients that receive hospital care on “observation status” do not qualify for this benefit, even if their hospital stay lasts longer than three days.
“When seniors are transferred from a hospital to a nursing home for further care, they should be able to focus on their recovery instead of technicalities that could lead to sky high medical bills,” Brown said. “My bipartisan legislation would help ensure that seniors receive the care they need without incurring unexpected and unfair costs.”
Brown’s bill, the Improving Access to Medicare Coverage Act, would allow for the time patients spend in the hospital under “observation status” to count toward the requisite three-day hospital stay for coverage of skilled nursing care. Specifically, Brown’s bill would:
According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), outpatient classification is intended for providers to run tests and evaluate patients in order to arrive at appropriate diagnoses and treatment plans, or to provide brief episodes of treatment. Typical services that are not considered “inpatient” involve emergency department services, outpatient surgery, lab testing, or x-rays. For the purposes of counting inpatient days, CMS considers a person an “inpatient” on the first day that the patient is formally admitted to the hospital because of a doctor’s order; the last is the day before discharge.
Joining Brown to discuss the importance of passing this legislation was Edie Horvat, of Lakewood, whose 90 year old mother was ambulanced to the emergency room and subsequently had to stay in the hospital for four nights. But because she was under “observation status,” Medicare wouldn’t pay for the necessary nursing home care she received after discharge.
The Improving Access to Medicare Coverage Act is endorsed by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), American Medical Association (AMA), American Health Care Association (AHCA), Center for Medicare Advocacy, American Case Managers Association, American Medical Directors Association (AMDA), American Nurses Association (ANA), LeadingAge, National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers, National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, and Society of Hospital Medicine.