Nebraska Congressman Adrian Smith has introduced a bill that would repeal the portion of the federal health care law which places time limits on certain patients at certain hospitals.
Smith, a Republican, says the rule requires doctors at critical care access hospitals to certify at the time of admission that Medicare or Medicaid patients will not remain at the hospital more than 96-hours.
“These regulations pop up and perhaps they were well-intended but in practice, they’re very burdensome, they’re costly,” Smith says. “We need to make sure medical professionals are allowed to practice medicine. They’re highly-trained. Let’s let them do their job rather than the federal government questioning their every move.”
Under the rule, hospitals that keep those patients longer than four days would risk losing their Medicare or Medicaid reimbursements.
The Nebraska Hospital Association supports Smith’s bill, because the 96-hour rule can force patients to obtain care outside of their communities for no clinical reason.
“Across the 75 counties of the Third (Congressional) District, there are more than 50 critical access hospitals that exist for different reasons, in a different geographic area, a different population density,” Smith says. “Some of these hospitals are very remote and it really does not serve the patient or the provider well that the federal government would question so many things about the treatment that they offer.”
Beatrice Community Hospital is one of the designated critical care access hospitals in Nebraska. Several smaller hospitals have moved in recent years to offering more outpatient, not inpatient, care.
“They’re trained to know what their limits are,” Smith says. “They have a huge responsibility to fulfill as well. That’s why they know when they should take a patient to a larger facility.”
Smith could not say if any critical access hospitals have been denied Medicare or Medicaid reimbursement for violating the 96-hour rule. He sits on the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health which carries jurisdiction over the Critical Access Hospital Relief Act.
By Doug Kennedy, KWBE, Beatrice