Bill would weaken 75% rule requirements

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A new bill would strike a blow to skilled nursing facilities' apparent good fortune in a recent federal decision over the so-called 75% Rule.

The bill would suspend implementation of the 75% Rule at the 50% level for two years, making it easier for facilities to gain inpatient rehabilitation facility status and receive higher Medicare payments. The "50%" refers to the percentage of hospital patients who must have one of 13 conditions for the facility to quality as an IRF.

The "Preserving Patient Access to Inpatient Rehabilitation Hospitals Act of 2005" would also provide protection for facilities that lost IRF status for the second year of the 75% Rule, and create a new advisory council on medical rehabilitation.

Sens. Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Rick Santorum (R-PA) introduced the legislation. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said last month it would enforce the 75% Rule. SNFs meet the threshold for IRF status more easily than other facilities.