Good morning, ProviderNation. Hope you’re recovered from your careful attention to the week’s most important news in history. Beyond the great news from Anaheim, the better news is that the next news will come from Chicago. Even if you don’t care for what one poet called “this combination of ballet and murder,” you owe it to yourself to watch the national anthem. It is an experience like no other. Trust your reporter: you’ll thank me later.
In other news, provider advocates are increasingly confident that there is (finally) momentum behind efforts to close Medicare’s observation stays loophole. In case you missed it, the Senate Aging committee on Wednesday took testimony from executive branch types on what the committee itself is calling a “crisis.”
“The financial consequences of these stays can be devastating for these patients and their families,” Aging Chair Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said in her opening statement. “Many of these patients find themselves in a Medicare twilight zone.”
The hearing itself was something of a victory for advocates, who’ve been working for years to raise awareness of the thousands of people who are being denied Medicare benefits because of a loophole that allows hospitals to classify patients as being “under observation” instead of as, um, patients. More than a few patients have found themselves through the looking glass here. (“‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in a rather scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.’”)
On Wednesday, AHCA/NCAL’s Clif Porter II said he was glad to see the Senate committee focused on an ongoing (and growing) problem. “Millions are at risk for getting stuck with thousands of dollars in medical bills because of their classification status in the hospital,” he said in a statement.
The hearing comes just a week after the NOTICE Act, which would require hospitals at least to tell patients when they’re under observation, was introduced into the Senate. Collins is one of several senators who’ve signed on to additional bills that would count observation stays toward a patient’s skilled nursing benefit.
Beyond the hearing, though, advocates are feeling confident that Congress is inching closer to fixing the problem.
“We’re pleased the Senate recognizes the scale of the problem and appears poised to move on it,” says Neill Pruitt Jr., chairman and chief executive officer of UHS-Pruitt and a member of the congressionally appointed Long Term Care Commission. “We’re hopeful that movement comes quickly, and we’re ready to help in any way we can.”