Legislation would remove limit on rural hospital stays

Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) introduced bipartisan legislation on Monday that would eliminate a new “condition of payment” from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that would limit patient stays at rural critical access hospitals to 96 hours.

The Critical Access Hospital Relief Act of 2014 introduced by Roberts and Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) would remove the condition of payment provision.

“This rule requires doctors to be clairvoyant and predict the unknown at the time of admission instead of focusing on treating a patient to the best of their abilities,” Roberts, the ranking member of the Senate Finance Subcommittee on Healthcare, said. “We need to focus on ensuring rural patients have access to the health system, not come up with bureaucratic ways to make it harder for patients in rural areas to get quality care from their doctors.”

Critics of the condition of payment provision argue that it could lead to premature discharges, readmissions and patients having to travel longer distances for care at larger hospitals.

“Putting arbitrary limits on how many hours patients can stay in critical access hospitals is dangerous and violates the trust patients put in their doctors and nurses,” Tester said. “Critical access hospitals play a vital role in providing quality and affordable healthcare in rural communities, and we shouldn’t shortchange the care someone receives because of their zip code.”