A Senate bill would loosen the so-called 75% rehabilitation rule, making it easier for facilities to qualify as rehab hospitals, which receive higher Medicare payments.
The bill would reduce to 50% the percentage of a hospital's patients who must have one of 13 conditions and maintain the lower threshold until July 2007. The current 60% threshold is scheduled to rise to 65% in 2006 and 75% in 2007.
The bill also would create a 17-member council on medical rehabilitation. Among other charges, the council would advise Congress and HHS on how policy affects rehab hospitals and develop criteria for rehab hospital admissions.
The legislation, sponsored by Sens. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), Jon Corzine (D-N.J.) and Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), was referred to the Senate Finance Committee. Companion legislation is expected to be introduced in the House next week.
Hospital industry groups, which say the 75% rule will hurt rehab providers and reduce patient access to services, applauded the bill.