Lawmakers reintroduce bill to ensure observation stays count toward SNF coverage

A bipartisan group of lawmakers reintroduced a bill on Wednesday that would require days spent by hospital patients in observation status count toward the three-day inpatient requirement for skilled nursing coverage.

The Improving Access to Medicare Coverage Act of 2017 follows a similar bill introduced in 2015. The newest iteration of the bill was introduced by Reps. Joe Courtney (D-CT) and Glenn Thompson (R-PA), along with Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Susan Collins (R-ME), Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV).

“This commonsense change will ensure that seniors no longer face thousands of dollars in bills for skilled care because of this arbitrary federal policy,” Courtney said in a statement. “It is very simple: three days in the hospital is three days in the hospital. Anyone who meets that threshold should receive the same benefit from Medicare. Congress should act immediately to restore Medicare's long history of covering nursing home care for patients after a three-day hospital stay.”

The legislation has the support of the American Health Care Association and the National Center for Assisted Living. AHCA President and CEO Mark Parkinson said the legislation would “help fix a confusing policy that continues to leave millions hanging with uncertainty regarding their access to the Medicare coverage they deserve.”

“The members of Congress that reintroduced this important legislation are advocates for our nation's seniors and those individuals who need skilled nursing care,” Parkinson said.

The House version of the bill has been referred to the House Ways and Means and Energy and Commerce Committees. The Senate version was referred to the Committee on Finance.