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Courtney, Brown, Thompson, Introduce Bipartisan Legislation To Ensure Skilled Care For Seniors

March 8, 2017
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congressman Joe Courtney (D-CT), U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Congressman Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson (R-PA) reintroduced legislation to fix an arbitrary Medicare policy that excludes coverage of skilled nursing care. Under current Medicare policy, a beneficiary must have an “inpatient” hospital stay of at least three days for Medicare to cover skilled nursing care. Patients who receive hospital care on “observation status” do not qualify for this benefit, even if their hospital stay lasts longer than three days. These patients are either forced to return home without the treatment their care team has suggested, or as often happens, are billed astronomical amounts after their stays in an skilled nursing facilities (SNF).

The Improving Access to Medicare Coverage Act of 2017 (HR 1421) 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.
“For hundreds of thousands of families this coverage gap is a quiet crisis that threatens access to critical nursing home care or in the alternative shifts thousands-of-dollars in costs to elderly patients,” said Courtney. “This commonsense change will ensure that seniors no longer face thousands of dollars in bills for skilled care because of this arbitrary federal policy. It is very simple: three days in the hospital is three days in the hospital. Anyone who meets that threshold should receive the same benefit from Medicare. Congress should act immediately to restore Medicare’s long history of covering nursing home care for patients after a three-day hospital stay.”

 “Seniors should be able to focus on their recovery instead of billing technicalities and sky high medical bills, or worse yet – trying to recover without the medical care they need because they can’t afford it,” said Brown. “This legislation would improve access to the medical care seniors need, and saves money on hospital readmission costs. It's a simple fix and the least we can do to protect our seniors from outrageous medical costs that they have no control over.”

"When Medicare beneficiaries are ill, the last thing they need to worry about is artificial barriers preventing access to care," said Thompson. "This commonsense bill  will ease the minds of America's seniors and eliminate unnecessary financial hardship's from unexpected out-of-pocket costs."

The bipartisan bill is endorsed by AARP, the American Health Care Association, the Center for Medicare Advocacy, the American Association of Directors of Nursing Services, Leading Age and the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.