Four hospital associations are urging Congress to provide some regulatory stability for long-term acute-care hospitals with the hope that the U.S. House of Representatives will soon introduce a new bill. Both the House and the Senate introduced separate LTAC hospital bills earlier this year. Since then, the American Hospital Association, Acute Long Term Hospital Association, National Association of Long Term Hospitals and Federation of American Hospitals have joined forces to reach consensus on federal policy for LTAC hospitals, as they continue to assert that new patient and facility criteria are needed to ensure the right patients are treated in these facilities. LTAC hospitals meet the same requirements as general acute-care hospitals, but patients there have an average length of stay of 25 days or more.
In addition to calling on the CMS to issue a report on LTAC criteria recommendations to Congress within 12 months, other factors in the joint proposal include: imposing a three-year moratorium on the development of new LTAC hospitals to address concerns about growth; preventing the current 25% rule pertaining to hospital referralswhich states if an LTAC hospital-within-a-hospital or an LTAC satellite's percentage of discharges that were admitted from its co-located host hospital exceed 25%, the payment to the LTAC would be adjusted downwardfrom being extended to free-standing and grandfathered LTAC hospitals, and freezing the regulation at its current levels for LTAC hospitals that are co-located within a general acute-care hospital, in rural areas or in areas with one dominant source of hospital referrals; and expanding the current medical necessity review of LTAC hospital admissions to ensure that clinically appropriate patients are admitted. Jennifer Mallard, senior associate director for federal relations at the AHA, said the legislation is at the mercy of the legislative process on Capitol Hill, but the hope is that a bill would be introduced on the House side as early as next week. -- by Jessica Zigmond