House unanimously passes 'observation status' bill

AHCA/NCAL President and CEO Mark Parkinson
AHCA/NCAL President and CEO Mark Parkinson

Long-term care leaders firmly applauded members of the U.S. House on Tuesday for unanimously passing a bill that would put tighter control over the designation of “observation status” for hospital patients.

The House voted 395-0 to pass the measure, which mandates timely notification to patients, many of whom have unknowingly not accrued enough inpatient days to qualify for Medicare-covered long-term care services.

The Notice of Observation Treatment and Implication for Care Eligibility (NOTICE) Act (H.R. 876) now goes to the Senate. The bill gives acute care facilities 36 hours to notify a patient of their observation status after the time of classification or, if sooner, upon discharge.

Rep. Todd Young (R-IN), one of the bill's co-sponsors, said the required timely notification could make a difference of thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket costs to some beneficiaries.

“The NOTICE Act is an important first step in removing roadblocks that limit access to post-acute care,” AHCA President and CEO Mark Parkinson added in a prepared statement on Tuesday. “Ensuring that Medicare beneficiaries are fully informed about their hospital status helps them make informed decisions about their treatments.”

The House on Tuesday also passed The Improving Regulatory Transparency for New Medical Therapies Act (H.R. 639), which streamlines how the Drug Enforcement Agency schedules new Food and Drug Administration-approved drugs under the Controlled Substances Act. Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA), chairman of the Energy and Commerce health subcommittee, said the bill “will allow new and innovative treatments to get to patients who desperately need them,” according to Bloomberg News services.