— The Telegram & Gazette (Worcester)
Medicare rule needs fix
At a time when bipartisan has somehow become a four-letter word in Washington, Democratic Congressman Joe Courtney of Connecticut and Congressman Tom Latham, an Iowa Republican, deserve credit for doggedly reaching across party lines to try to correct a senseless and unfair Medicare rule.
For the third consecutive year, Courtney and Latham have co-sponsored the Improving Access to Medicare Coverage Act. If passed into law, it would end a rule that in 2012 prevented more than 600,000 senior citizens from getting Medicare coverage for their doctor-ordered convalescent stays.
The denial of Medicare coverage forces these seniors to choose between spending tens of thousands of dollars out of pocket for their convalescent care or returning home or to family, without getting the level of care the doctor advised.
At issue is the “observation status” designation. A patient admitted to a hospital for three nights or more is eligible to have follow-up, doctor-ordered care in a convalescent home paid for by Medicare. The exception, however, is if the patient is in the hospital for “observation.” In those cases, there is no subsequent Medicare coverage.
The Courtney-Latham bill would allow for the time patients spend in the hospital under observation status to count toward the three-day hospital stay requirement for convalescent home or skilled-nursing care under Medicare. A matching bill, introduced by Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, is pending in the Senate.
It is a breach of faith to deny so many elderly the financial support necessary to get the care doctors say they need.
Congress and the Senate should adopt the Courtney-Latham-Brown bills and President Obama should sign the legislation into law.
— The Day of New London (Conn.)