How Much Does Medicare Pay for Nursing Home Stays?
According to the AARP, the median monthly cost to live in a nursing home is $7,908 for a semi-private room. The options for paying for such care are limited. Fortune’s recent article, “Does Medicare pay for nursing home care? An expert helps make sense of the rules,” reminds us that there’s limited nursing home coverage under Medicare.
Medicare won’t pay for nursing home care but for certain stays under specific conditions. The program will pay for a nursing home stay, if it’s determined that the patient needs skilled nursing services, like help recovering after a medical issue like surgery or a stroke, but for not more than 100 days. For the first 20 days, Medicare will cover 100% of the cost. From day 21 to 100, the patient pays a $200 co-payment in 2023, and Medicare pays the balance.
To qualify, the individual would need at least a three-day stay as a hospital inpatient before the agency would approve payment for nursing home care for rehabilitation or skilled nursing care. Getting three days as an inpatient in a hospital is a challenge as hospitals are discharging patients quickly, and most patients aren’t staying for three nights. Hospitals also use what’s called observation status, where a patient is technically not admitted to the hospital. This affects beneficiaries’ ability to access Medicare coverage for rehabilitation or skilled nursing care in a nursing home. Observation status gives physicians 24-48 hours to assess if a patient should be admitted for inpatient care or discharged. This status can be costly for Medicare patients as the agency classifies it as outpatient care. As a result, beneficiaries may have to pay their share of that cost as a deductible, coinsurance, or copayment. Some patients also remain in observation status longer than the typical 24 to 48 hours.
To address this, Medicare has implemented the two-midnight rule. This rule stipulates that when a physician expects a patient to require hospital care for at least two midnights, they should admit them as an inpatient. However, two midnights spent under observation don’t count toward the three-day inpatient stay patients need to qualify for coverage in a nursing home or SNF. It’s not just a matter of the time spent in the hospital; it’s how the patient is classified.
The patient must be formally admitted as an inpatient to be classified as an inpatient.
Because each state regulates Medicaid eligibility differently, ask an experienced elder law attorney to guide you through the process and to help you find the best long-term care option.
Reference: Fortune (Aug. 29, 2023) “Does Medicare pay for nursing home care? An expert helps make sense of the rules”
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