NOTICE Act signed; deadline next August

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President Obama has signed into law a bill changing notification of outpatient observation status for hospital patients.

The Notice of Observation, Treatment and Implication for Care Eligibility Act (NOTICE) will require hospitals to tell Medicare beneficiaries of their outpatient status within 36 hours, or, if sooner, upon discharge. The time spent in observation status can affect patients' eligibility for Medicare post-acute care coverage.

Hospitals will have until August 2016 to comply with the new law. The NOTICE Act passed the Senate unanimously late last month; the House passed its version of the bill in March.

American Health Care Association Senior Vice President of Government Relations Clifton J. Porter II called the bill “an important step forward” following the Senate vote. AHCA and other provider and consumer groups have pushed for better notification of observation status to Medicare beneficiaries.

The bill  means “individuals who leave a hospital, preparing for a short stay in a skilled nursing center, will now know what their hospital status is, which could save them thousands of dollars,” Porter said