Brown visits city to promote bill to expand Medicare

Goal: Wipe out sky-high medical bills

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    U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio) visited East Toledo on Tuesday to promote a bill that would expand Medicare coverage for seniors getting therapy in skilled nursing centers.

    Senator Brown visited the Lutheran Home, 131 N. Wheeling St., in support of the Improving Access to Medicare Coverage Act.

    He shared a podium with the daughter of a woman who faces $61,000 in medical bills because of a Medicare rule the senator wants to abolish.

    The bill, which died in a previous Congress, would require Medicare to pay for skilled nursing care after any three-day hospital stay. Under current law, patients’ care is covered by Medicare only when the patient has been “admitted” for at least three days.

    Hospitals are increasingly classifying patients as in “observation status” rather than admitted as in-patients because of Medicare regulations, Mr. Brown said.

    “When seniors are transferred from a hospital to a nursing home for further care, they should be able to focus on their recovery instead of technicalities that could lead to sky-high medical bills,” he said. “My bipartisan legislation would help ensure that seniors receive the care they need without incurring unexpected and unfair costs.”

    With him was Diana Peth, whose mother, Julia Matthews, 87, has received three monthly nursing home bills totaling $61,000. Mrs. Matthews suffered a disabling attack of gout in late September and spent six days at Mercy St. Charles Hospital.

    She was in a wheelchair at the Lutheran Home and said she was going through rehabilitation to get back on her feet and resume independent living.

    Mrs. Peth said she’s appealing to have her mother’s care paid for by Medicaid, which covers medical care for low-income people, because her mother has no ability to pay.

    “We were shocked to find she was never considered admitted,” Mrs. Peth said. “It isn’t right that Medicare can deny aftercare to someone who spent a week in the hospital and clearly cannot care for themselves.”

    Mercy issued a statement that it classifies patients according to Medicare policies, and treatment is identical under either admitted or observation status. The hospital system said it supports increasing access to and payment for care.

    Introduced in 2011, the previous bill was referred to committee in the Republican-controlled House and died after no action was taken. Republicans are refusing to pass bills that increase the cost of government without corresponding cuts.

    Senator Brown said he doesn’t know the cost of his legislation to taxpayers, but said it would not be large because it would result in some savings.

    Contact Tom Troy: or 419--724-6058 or an Twitter @TomFTroy.