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Legislation Unveiled to Clarify Two-Midnight Rule

On Thursday, in a bipartisan effort, two senators unveiled a proposed bill that attempts to clarify the infamous two-midnight rule. Senator Robert Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey and Senator Deb Fischer, a Republican from Nebraska are co-sponsors of the bill. Titled as Two-Midnight Rule Coordination and Improvement Act of 2014, the bill mirrors a similar one currently working its way through the House of Representatives and has the support of numerous hospital and doctor associations.

Most notably, the bill would require the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to consult with interested stakeholders – such as hospitals, physicians, Medicare administrative contractors, recovery audit contractors, and other parties determined appropriate by the Secretary – to determine the criteria for short inpatient stays. Additionally, the bill would require CMS to develop a payment methodology for the shorter inpatient stays. Although, in developing the payment methodology, the bill does not require consultation with the same stakeholders used in developing the criteria for shorter inpatient stays, the bill strongly encourages CMS to consider the criteria that the stakeholders developed.

Equally important in the bill are the timing provisions relating to the implementation of the criteria for shorter inpatient stays. Most importantly, the proposed bill keeps the current enforcement delay in place. The bill would also provide an additional year long delay in the enforcement of the two-midnight rule if the criteria for shorter inpatient stays are not implemented during the IPPS annual notice and comment rulemaking process for fiscal year 2015. If the criteria are in place during the fiscal year 2015 rulemaking process (i.e., regulations are finalized in 2014), the bill authorizes RACs to begin their work at the time of implementation, but not prior to October, 1, 2014. This measure ensures that hospitals are not subject to audits until the criteria are made final.

The proposed bill should come as welcome news to hospitals and other affected providers who have been perplexed by the complexities of the ill-devised two-midnight rule. These complexities have resulted in delays of the rule’s enforcement on several occasions. Menendez and Fischer hope that the bill provides doctors with the flexibility and ability to provide patients with the care their medical conditions require. Both Senators noted that in its current form the two-midnight rule fails to recognize that a hospital stay for less than two nights is medically necessary and the most prudent approach.

Wachler & Associates will continue to monitor any further developments regarding CMS’s new inpatient admission rule. If you have any questions pertaining to the two-midnight rule or certification and order requirements, please contact an experienced health care attorney at Wachler & Associates via phone at 248-544-0888 or via email at wapc@wachler.com.