A bipartisan cadre of lawmakers reintroduced the Improving Access to Medicare Coverage Act of 2021 in the House of Representatives on Tuesday. If passed, the legislation would make permanent last year’s legislation to temporarily count observation stays towards the three-day stay requirement for Medicare skilled nursing facility coverage during the pandemic.
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) sponsored the bill in the Senate during the previous Congress, and he is expected to re-introduce the legislation soon, according to a statement House lawmakers released this week.
“Whether a patient is in the hospital for three days as an inpatient, or for three days under ‘observation status’ — three days is three days. Quibbling over semantics shouldn’t keep people from accessing the care their doctors have prescribed, or trap them beneath a mountain of unexpected medical debt,” the lawmakers wrote in a statement. The bill, they said, is a “commonsense fix to Medicare’s arbitrary ‘observation status’ loophole that will help ensure seniors aren’t getting billed thousands of extra dollars in medical bills due to illogical federal policy.”
The three-day hospital stay is “burdensome,” American Health Care Association President and CEO Mark Parkinson said in a statement. The pre-pandemic requirement, he said, caused unnecessary out-of pocket costs “in the thousands” for follow-up care because residents and patients did not meet the threshold for Medicare coverage.
“The waiver of this requirement during the COVID-19 pandemic public health emergency has benefited thousands of Medicare beneficiaries and demonstrated that eliminating this policy can work,” Parkinson said. “Now it is time this issue was fixed permanently. We greatly appreciate that this legislation will count observation stays toward the three-day stay requirement, ultimately helping our patients receive the quality care they deserve without worrying about how they’re going to pay for it.”