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AARP to Congress: Expand Medicare Coverage of Short-Term Skilled Nursing Care

En español | AARP is backing federal legislation that would expand Medicare coverage for people who need short-term rehabilitation in a skilled nursing facility after being hospitalized following an illness or injury.

Medicare rules require at least a three-day inpatient hospital stay for nursing facility services to be covered. However, if a patient is admitted to the hospital for observation, those days aren’t counted toward the three-day requirement because it is considered outpatient care. The bipartisan Improving Access to Medicare Coverage Act, which AARP endorsed after it was introduced in the House last month, would change that.

“Unfortunately, the financial impact for Medicare beneficiaries who spend time in observation can be burdensome and significant,” wrote Bill Sweeney, AARP senior vice president for government affairs, in a letter to the bill’s sponsors.

These patients “may be faced with paying thousands of dollars in surprise medical bills” or be denied care in a skilled nursing setting because of the lack of coverage, we noted in the letter. Others may choose to go without follow-up care provided in these facilities, such as physical, occupational or speech therapy.

AARP has long worked with health officials to improve and expand Medicare, which provides care to more than 65 million older Americans and people with disabilities.

Last month, we endorsed a bill that would help older Americans prepare for Medicare enrollment and avoid costly late penalties, and we backed another that would expand nurse practitioners’ authority to treat Medicare patients without a doctor’s supervision.

AARP this year is also urging Congress to add routine dental care coverage to traditional Medicare and is pushing for the program to do more to support and engage family caregivers.

Read our latest endorsement letter and learn more about Medicare benefits at AARP’s Medicare Resource Center.

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