Medicare proposes coverage change on short hospital stays

WASHINGTON (AP) — Medicare is proposing to ease a coverage policy on short hospital stays that has been criticized because it can result in higher costs for seniors.

Medicare coverage for inpatient and outpatient care is determined under different rules. In some cases, a hospital admission classified as inpatient can result in lower bills for beneficiaries.

The problem has come when patients are admitted for short observation stays. Medicare policy generally required a hospitalization to span at least two midnights to qualify as an inpatient case.

Wednesday’s proposal from Medicare would allow for case-by-case exceptions. Based on a doctor’s judgment, certain short hospital stays could be covered under inpatient payment rules.

Hospital groups and AARP were analyzing the proposal. The new proposal would not take effect until November, following a public comment period.

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