Thursday, April 11, 2013

Senator Schumer Raises Observation Status Issue with CMS’ Tavenner

Earlier this week, the Senate Committee on Finance held a hearing to consider the nomination of Acting Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), Marilyn Tavenner. During this hearing, Senator Schumer (D-NY) raised the issue of Medicare beneficiaries’ access to skilled nursing facility (SNF) care being constrained by the increased use of extended hospital stays in observation status. Sen. Schumer is a cosponsor of the Improving Access to Medicare Coverage Act of 2013 (S. 569), which aims to ease access to skilled nursing care for Medicare beneficiaries following a hospital stay.  

In order to access the SNF benefit under Medicare Part A, patients currently must be admitted to a hospital for at least three days. S. 569 would deem time an individual spends under observation status eligible to count towards satisfying the three-day requirement. Senator Schumer addressed the key importance of what this legislation would accomplish and specifically asked Tavenner if there is a way without Congressional action that CMS could administratively fix this issue.  Tavenner responded that she would be happy to work on this issue. AHCA has long advocated that all days spent in a hospital, regardless of “inpatient” or “observation” status, should count toward Medicare’s three-day hospital stay requirement.

AHCA has made the Improving Access to Medicare Coverage Act a top priority and has been meeting with members of Congress to garner support for it. In addition, AHCA is part of a coalition that consists of key health care groups, such as the Center for Medicare Advocacy, Inc., and AARP, who are advocating for this important legislation. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) introduced S. 569, and Representatives Joseph Courtney (D-CT) and Tom Latham (R-IA) introduced companion legislation, H.R. 1179, in the House of Representatives. AHCA will continue to provide updates on this important matter.        

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