NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


February 12, 2010

Long term hospitals -- facilities that house patients longer than regular hospitals -- have become increasingly popular since the 1980s, but can be more likely than regular hospitals to break Medicare rules and have patients who contract infections or develop bedsores, says the New York Times. 

Medicare rules offer high payments to facilities that treat patients for 25 days on average or longer, but Medicare has never closely examined long-term care facilities and does not penalize them for not submitting quality data. 

According to the Times: 

  • About 130,000 of the 200,000 patients treated annually in long-term care hospitals are Medicare beneficiaries.
  • Medicare is projected to spend $4.8 billion in 2010 on reimbursements to long-term care facilities.  

Unlike other specialized hospitals, like psychiatric or children's hospitals, long-term care hospitals do not treat specific types of patients or offer services unavailable in regular hospitals.  They are defined solely by the fact that they keep patients longer than other hospitals.  They are also smaller than a typical hospital, averaging about 60 beds. 

Proponents of long-term care hospital say the facilities fill an important niche by caring for patients too sick for nursing homes but whose conditions do not improve in regular hospitals. 

Source: Alex Berenson, "Long-Term Care Hospitals Face Little Scrutiny," New York Times, February 9, 2010. 

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