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Sewell introduces bipartisan legislation to protect long-term care hospitals

This bipartisan legislation would extend pandemic-era Medicare payment policies for LTCHs for one year.

(STOCK)

Congresswoman Terri Sewell , R-Alabama, and Jason Smith, R-Missouri, introduced HR8580, the Long Term Care Hospital (LTCH) Access and Stability Act.

This bipartisan legislation would extend pandemic-era Medicare payment policies for LTCHs for one year after the end of the Public Health Emergency. Such an extension would prevent steep and sudden Medicare payment cuts to LTCHs and allow these specialized hospitals time to transition back to pre-pandemic policies. By supporting LTCHs, the LTCH Access and Stability Act would help ensure that long-term acute care services remain available for communities that need them.

“Long Term Care Hospitals have played such a critical role in treating patients with COVID-19 and those with chronic conditions, but without action, these hospitals will soon face devastating payment cuts that threaten their ability to provide lifesaving care,” says Rep. Sewell. “I thank my colleague, Congressman Jason Smith, for joining me in introducing the LTCH Access and Stability Act which would give these facilities time to transition back to pre-pandemic payment policies. We must ensure that these hospitals can continue to operate for those who rely on them.”

“Long Term Care Hospitals play a unique and vital role in our nation’s health care system—and are particularly critical in rural areas,” said Rep. Smith. “COVID-19 strained the resources of facilities that treated these patients, and as we adjust back to pre-pandemic policies, we need to ensure adequate transition time for facilities like LTCHs, which were the tip of the spear in rural America. This legislation will ensure LTCHs have additional time to adjust their resources, keep their doors open, and—most importantly—continue providing life-changing care to patients affected by serious long-term medical illnesses in Missouri and across the nation.”

LTCHs are designed to care for severely ill patients who, though clinically stable, still require complex medical treatment such as mechanical ventilation. This makes them ideal treatment facilities for patients with COVID-19. To preserve access to long-term care hospitals and increase patient capacity during the pandemic, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act created a more flexible Medicare payment policy for LTCHs by waiving the previous “site neutral” policy for the duration of the PHE. This waiver allowed for LTCHs to serve patients they previously did not—including those suffering from COVID-19—and helped free beds in short-term acute-care hospitals. 

As the COVID emergency winds down, this flexibility for patient capacity will expire, forcing devastating cuts to LTCHs across the country. At the same time, these hospitals face the same challenges as other hospitals, including workforce shortages, supply chain constraints, and rising costs. The LTCH Access and Stability Act would extend the current Medicare payment policy for LTCHs for one year after the end of the PHE, creating a one-year transition period back to pre-pandemic policies and ensuring that patients can continue to access the lifesaving care these hospitals provide.

“The Coalition of Long-Term Acute-Care Hospitals thanks Congresswoman Sewell and Congressman Smith for introducing the LTCH Access and Stability Act,” said Anthony F. Misitano Chair of the Coalition of LTACHs and Founder, Chairman, & CEO of PAM Health. “This bill acknowledges the vital role LTACHs have played in the communities they serve during the most dangerous days of the COVID-19 pandemic and provides time for those hospitals to transition out of crisis mode and re-establish firm footing so they can continue to provide the long-term acute-level care for the patients who need it.”  

“Members of the National Association of Long Term Hospitals (NALTH) have been proud to serve as front-line responders during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dr. Ed Prettyman, President of the National Association of Long Term Hospitals. “We applaud Congresswoman Sewell and Congressman Smith for their leadership and the introduction of the LTCH Access and Stability Act. Ensuring long term care hospitals do not face an abrupt and steep payment cut is crucial to preserving access to vital care in communities across the country. We thank Congresswoman Sewell and Congressman Smith for recognizing the important role long term care hospitals play in caring for our nation’s most critically ill patients.”

The LTCH Access and Stability Act is also supported by the following organizations:

  • North Alabama Specialty Hospital 
  • AMG Specialty Hospitals 
  • Coalition of Long-Term Acute-Care Hospitals 
  • Community Hospital Corporation (CHC) 
  • KPC Promise Healthcare 
  • Landmark Hospitals 
  • LHC Group 
  • LifeCare 2.0 
  • National Association of Long Term Hospitals (NALTH) 
  • PAM Health 
  • Priority Hospital Group 
  • Vibra Health

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