Increasingly, hospital patients throughout the country are learning they are considered outpatients, on "observation status," not inpatients, although they have stayed many days and nights and been treated IN a hospital. The Center has written extensively about this practice and is pursuing litigation to challenge it in federal court. Among the harmful consequences of observation status, people who need post-hospital nursing home care do not qualify for Medicare coverage, since the law requires a three-day prior inpatient hospital stay to obtain Medicare skilled nursing facility (SNF) coverage.
On March 14, 2013, bills addressing observation status were introduced in the House of Representative (HR 1179) by Representatives Joe Courtney (D. CT) and Tom Latham (R. IA ) and, in the Senate (S 569), by Senator Sherrod Brown (D. Ohio). Similar to bills introduced in prior sessions of Congress, this legislation would amend the Medicare Act’s definition of "post-hospital extended care services" to clarify that time spent in the hospital in observation status counts toward the three-day prior hospital prerequisite for Medicare SNF coverage; this would helped thousands of older and disabled people. The Center for Medicare Advocacy supports this legislation and encourages other who can do so as well.