Shuster has right idea on view of patient care

Now that the government shutdown and debt ceiling matters have been temporarily resolved, the next several months will require Congress to address several important issues, one of which is ensuring that Medicare’s payments to physicians are not cut by nearly 25 percent next year.

Congress has repeatedly acted to override these cuts – usually by cutting other healthcare providers and suppliers to pay for the cost of not allowing the cuts to occur.

Under the guise of reform, some policymakers in Washington want to make it more difficult for Medicare beneficiaries who need intensive medical rehabilitation and nursing care that can only be provided in rehabilitation hospitals to access that care, by revisiting a technical policy called the “60 percent rule.”

This policy requires hospitals like ours here at HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital of Altoona to treat at least 60 percent of all our patients who have medical diagnoses derived from a list of 13 medical categories, such as strokes, neurological impairments, hip fractures and trauma cases.

It is antiquated, quota based, and can have a rationing effect on patients – yet increasing it to 75 percent would make its effects worse.

Shifting seniors away from rehabilitation hospitals simply because their diagnoses are not included on an outdated list of medical conditions is not reform.

Thankfully, Congressman Shuster recognizes this and recently signed a letter to Health & Human Services Secretary Sebelius expressing concerns with this idea.

On behalf of our employees and the patients we serve, Congressman Shuster’s support is greatly appreciated.

There are multiple alternatives available to achieve reform in our healthcare system, including within the rehabilitation hospital community, but reducing patients’ access to our services simply because of their diagnoses is not one of them.

Scott A. Filler, CEO

HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital Altoona