Thursday, May 16, 2013

Observation Status Coalition Heads to Capitol Hill

This week, AHCA and the observation status coalition headed to Capitol Hill as a group to meet with members of Congress and their staff to raise 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. Specifically, the group is advocating for the Improving Access to Medicare Coverage Act of 2013 (S. 569/H.R. 1179), which aims to ease access to skilled nursing care for Medicare beneficiaries following a hospital stay. The coalition brought with it a fact sheet signed by a dozen organizations including AHCA/NCAL, the American Medical Association, AMDA, the Center for Medicare Advocacy, Inc., LeadingAge, the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, Inc., the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers, the National Association of State Long-Term Care Ombudsman Programs, the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care, the National Senior Citizens Law Center and the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare. AHCA staff have been hitting the Hill since the bill was introduced in March and welcome the opportunity to work in a coalition with others interested in advancing the legislation. The coalition will continue to meet with key Congressional offices to garner support for the Improving Access to Medicare Coverage Act.

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. 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 and H.R. 1179 would deem time an individual spends under observation status eligible to count towards satisfying the three-day requirement. 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 has made the Improving Access to Medicare Coverage Act a top priority, and AHCA/NCAL members attending Congressional Briefing on June 3-4 will have the opportunity to advocate for this important legislation. For more information on this issue, please feel free to contact AHCA or visit the Observation Stays page on www.ahca.org. AHCA will continue to provide updates on this important matter.

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