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AARP to Senate: Expand Medicare Coverage of Short-Term Rehabilitation

En español | AARP wrote to Senate lawmakers last week in support of federal legislation that would expand Medicare coverage for people who need short-term rehabilitation in a skilled nursing facility after hospitalization.

Medicare rules require at least a three-day inpatient hospital stay for nursing facility services to be covered. But if the patient is admitted to the hospital for observation, the days are considered an outpatient service and don't count toward the requirement, even though the care provided is often identical, AARP wrote in a letter to the bill's sponsors.

The bipartisan Improving Access to Medicare Coverage Act, which AARP endorsed on April 25, would count observation days as inpatient stays, allowing more older adults to qualify for Medicare coverage of their rehab.

AARP backed a companion bill introduced in the House last year.

“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.

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 year, we endorsed bills that would help older Americans avoid costly Medicare late enrollment penalties and expand nurse practitioners’ authority to treat Medicare patients without a doctor’s supervision.

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

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

Also of Interest:

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Medicare
9 Things Medicare Doesn’t Cover
12 Things That Are Free Under Medicare

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